Meghalaya farmers are bringing back the ancient crop

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Read full article By Caritas India @ CARITAS INDIA Photo Credit: Caritas India

Lang Pyrtuh is a staunch supporter of millet cultivation. He says, “Even if money started growing on trees or we have lots of money in hand; but still, we cannot eat money.”

The 68-year-old farmer from Samanong village in West Jaintia Hills District of Meghalaya State of Northeast India has seen his village expanding from mere 14 houses to current 51 families. The villagers used to cultivate only two types of millets i.e. “Kre lieh and Kre Iong” (white and black millets) and till date, they continue to cultivate these two types of millets.

“In the past, millets fed the poor and advantaged people alike but now there has been a total declined in millets cultivation over the last 27 years and it has been replaced by Rice as staple grain,” says Lang Pyrtuh.

The introduction of Cash Crops like Sesame and Broom cultivation has drastically affected the cultivation of millet. The price of millet was only 2 rupees per kg whereas Sesame was sold at 300 rupees per kg. Due to this, farmers gradually turned towards profitable produces. Another main reason is the supply of Public Distribution System (PDS) which includes only rice, wheat and sugar. This has resulted in a change in food habits, which has led to more dependency on external food products. Earlier, the millet was a major grain consumed at the village but with the changing food patterns, rice and wheat took precedence over millet. Now, children also did not like the taste of millet anymore.

Lang Pyrtuh informs that millet was also used to make local beer. However, as the generation has changed day by day, the use of this product has been limited to those who still practice the same as fodder for animals and birds. He shares that in the recent past farmers use to exchange millets with other food items (barter system) at the local exchange market.

Faced with a challenging situation, Jaintia Hills Development Society (JHDS), a Caritas India partner for the FARM NE project took the initiative to address this challenge of declining millets farming in the village. Lang Pyrtuh and other farmers also joined JHS to bring millet back to the region. Several meetings were organised with the farmers to share the importance of millets cultivation and its relevance.

Millet is very easy to cultivate as it does not require many inputs (like Chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides and hybrid seeds etc). The FARM team also suggested other benefits from the millets in which they can start food processing, like making local food, snacks biscuits, cakes and cookies etc.

The intervention started showing positive results in the year 2019 as another 10 families have come forward to cultivate millet. It is expected that more families will join to cultivate millet and promote farmer to farmer and community to community exchanges to bring the neighbouring village and the whole district under millet cultivation.

The support is also taken from Krishi Vigyan Kendra to assist in training on small millets processing for the selected entrepreneurs in agri-processing from millets and the related benefits.

The community is convinced of the production and multiplication of millets for the long term sustainability, and also to earn some extra income from this millets with the help and support of JHDS in processing, packaging and marketing.

The FARM Programme has been instrumental in trying to bring back millet cultivation among the community in the region. Earlier similar cases have also been reported from other parts of Meghalaya, parts of Assam and Manipur. Millet back into the system is going to go a long way in promoting the idea of food sovereignt

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Posted on

January 6, 2021

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