Read full article by Seema Rajpal@EdexLive Photo Credit: Millet Bank
You knew that millets were healthy. But did you know how grossly neglected they are as a crop? When Vishala Reddy found out, she decided she was going to turn that whole situation around with farmers
When a nation loses a language, a tribe or even a dish, it almost loses an entire culture. Recently, I discovered it’s the same for crops. It is a matter of concern that millets, known to be one of the oldest cultivated crops, is at that precipice today. Entrepreneur and start-up mentor Vishala Reddy Vuyyala recollects for us how growing up in Mullur Krishnapuram (also known a MK Puram), a village in in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, she saw how before sowing for the kharif season, sashyalu (noodles kind of dish) was made to celebrate the occasion. Then there were gadhelus, traditional storage pots, which were used to store millets and gadhees, common places where millets were stored in case of natural calamities. “Nowadays, I realise that it was not just about growing a crop — there was a whole culture associated with it which kept communities together, ensured food safety and above all, was sustainable,” says Vishala, Founder Director of IdentCITY, a firm focussed on destination/city branding and marketing services in Hyderabad. This lockdown gave this Hyderabadi the chance to go back to her village and really mull over all that was lost and all that will be lost if she didn’t act now.
This one’s in the bank “If you knew the amount of fertilisers and pesticides used to grow crops, you wouldn’t consume any of it,” says Vishala cringing, when talking about how we have forgotten millets and are growing pulses with the advent of borewell technology. So with the hope of bringing back what’s good for Mother Earth and good for mankind and on the serendipitous occasion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing September as Nutrition Month, a soft launch for the ambitious Millet Bank was done on August 31, 2020. What’s up for offer? Millet processing is a longdrawn out process so the Millet Bank will help farmers with the process by setting up a processing unit — after encouraging farmers to store millets for themselves, they will purchase it at a fair price and take it from there. “After the first interaction during the soft launch, about 40 farmers agreed to come on board,” says Vishala, who hails from a family of farmers who are wellrespected in their village. The idea is to reclaim 150 to 200 acres of dryland and encourage farmers to grow millets. They, primarily Vishala’s nephew, have already successfully convinced about seven farmers and now, 25 acres of land is ready to grow millets. Since the family has a tractor, they are offering to plough the land for free. She also met the collector in July to discuss with him the plan of expanding the concept of the Millet Bank. And this is just one part of the story.