Read full article By Deepanwita Gita Niyogi @ GaonConnection Photo Credit: Hari Sendram
This monsoon, after a gap of 15 years, Gond adivasi farmers across eight villages of Gaurella-Pendra-Marwahi district return to their roots, cultivating local varieties of millets. They had switched to paddy due to government policy promoting it and lack of viable rates for millets.
Forty-five-year-old Hari Sendram, a Gond adivasi from Bhandi village, is eagerly awaiting this year’s monsoon rainfall. After a long gap of almost 10 years, he is returning to the traditional practice of growing local minor millets like kodo, kutki and kangi (foxtail millet).
“We have to prepare our lands before the monsoon rains. Kodo, kutki and kangi are our traditional grains,” Sendram told Gaon Connection. He has a list of 19 farmers in his village who will grow minor millets this year.
Meanwhile, to promote millets in the state, in January this year, Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel announced procurement of kodo and kutki under Minimum Support Price (MSP), for the first time.
M Geetha, state agriculture secretary and agriculture production commissioner, told Gaon Connection that the state minor forest produce federation would collect, market and process kodo and kutki. The MSP would be decided by a committee set up by the agriculture department.
Till a decade ago, tribal farmers in Bhandi village of Gaurella-Pendra-Marwahi, a newly carved district in Chhattisgarh, 212 kilometres (km) from state capital Raipur, had enough seed stock of traditional minor millets such as kodo and kutki. But, over the years, they switched to paddy cultivation due to low prices for millets, and government policy that encouraged paddy cultivation. Today, barely five of 694 households in Bhandi have seed stock of millets left.
Now, there’s a movement to restore millet cultivation. The National Institute of Women, Child and Youth Development, a non-profit headquartered in Nagpur, has begun work with over 500 farmers in eight villages in Gaurella-Pendra-Marwahi district to urge them to grow millets on at least 0.2 hectare each. It has already procured millet seed stock from Madhya Pradesh for distribution in the district.