Read full article By Swasthi Pachauri @ DownToEarth Photo Credit:/ DownToEarth
Foods of the future
Millets are traditional grasses or crops that are friendly to arid environments and considered to do well in drought-like conditions, according to Food and Agriculture Organization.
Millet farming directly results in preserving and conserving biodiversity. This is one reason why women farmers, with their ecological acumen and their close association with climate protection, are best suited to be ambassadors of millet cultivation.
They also universally succeed in practicing seed sovereignty principles and water conservation. With the creation of incentives toward promoting the woman farmer, these goals of millet cultivation and sustainable development, especially those related to agriculture and sustainable production and consumption, can be achieved.
Around 4,000 litres of water is required to produce one kilogram of rice, it has been argued. Millets like jowar, however, require little water at all.
Many farmers I met in the central Indian plains grew minor millets such as kodo, kutki and sama rice. Until recently, efforts, albeit limited, were undertaken toward promoting millets, owing to an entire market that operates because of wheat and rice.
Therefore, boosting millet cultivation will empower the average farmer and achieve the objectives of enhancing incomes and improving crop diversification.
Diversifying rural markets
For the last few years, millets such as jowar, bajra, ragi have dominated urban consumption baskets through either direct-cooked consumption, or more popularly, via the fast-moving consumer goods penetration.
Ragi cookies, bajra biscuits, jowar namkeen, traditional delicacies like millet halwa, upma, jhunka and bhakri are some popular millet-delicacies. However, there is an imported penetration of seeds, whole grains and cereals not native to the Indian geography or cuisine. Quinoa is a prominent example that has seen increasing domination in urban diets.
Therefore, under the ‘Vocal for Local’ campaign, indigenous crops must be lent more support and focus. A sustainable way to pursue this is to empower women farmers and self-help groups (SHG), by equipping them with advanced packaging techniques, agro-marketing, financial literacy and other entrepreneurial skills.
Grassroots workers like the anganwadi and ASHA workers must be further involved as nutrition ambassadors and entrepreneurs in the millet revolution.