Read full article by UN News @UN News Photo Credit: UN India/Anandi Charan Behera of Studio Priya, Bhubanesswar
A World Food Program-backed initiative to deliver millet seeds to vulnerable people is taking root in Odisha, India, where it is helping to ward off hunger and improve livelihoods.
Subasa Mohanta is no stranger to hunger. It has been a constant in the lives of this 50-year-old farmer, her husband, and two children.
Despite 16-hour days of back-breaking work as a farmhand, carting stone to a construction site, she might still come home without enough to eat.
But in 2018, a small bag of seeds helped Subasa to transform her life.
Ms. Mohanta scattered the finger millet seeds — given to her by the Odisha Government as part of a rural programme supported by the World Food Programme (WFP) — in the fallow 0.6 hectares of land that circles her brick-and-mud house in the village of Goili in Mayurbhanj district.
In about two months, she harvested her first crop of mandia (the Odia word for ragi or finger millet). Subasa sold a part of the about 500 kilograms she harvested at 40 rupees a kilo, kept some of it to feed the hungry mouths at home, and distributed the rest among friends and family. And then she sowed the seeds of change once again on her farmland.
Mandia Maa, a symbol of hope
Over the last three years, Subasa’s story of hope, confidence and empowerment has become intertwined with the genesis and growth of the Odisha Millets Mission (OMM), a flagship programme of the regional government’s Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment.
Her days are now divided between farming her own land, plus another 3.2 hectares she has leased, and advising women in Mayurbhanj and other districts of Odisha on the best practices of millet cultivation.
She also attends to local reporters who queue up for a glimpse of Mandia Maa, a moniker she has earned for her hard work and willingness to try a new crop when few others were open to the idea.