Read full article By Abhijit Mohantyj@ Newsgram Photo Credit: IANS
The Odisha Millets Mission (OMM), a flagship initiative of the state government of Odisha, has supported women self-help groups (WSHGs) to set up 76 ‘millet tiffin centres’ at various community locations in 13 tribal-dominated districts. The initiative has fortified the strength and conscientiousness of women collectives by setting up primary processing and post-harvesting units for millets in rural areas. These millet-based enterprises can become a comprehensive solution in addressing malnutrition, unemployment and in motivating farmers to increase their millet cultivation area, which was once reduced due to aggressive promotion of cash crops, claim civil society organisations facilitating the implementation of OMM at the grassroots.
To revive millets as “Nutri-Cereals” in the state, OMM has prioritised creating awareness about production, productivity, consumption and marketing of millet produce and including millets in the state nutrition programme. Awareness-building activities were organised, such as food festivals, cooking competitions, and celebrating local millet food cultures. Participatory training programmes were also conducted for WSHGs on millet recipes and millet enterprises.
Millet Tiffin Centres
Millet tiffin centres were launched in rural areas to create a demand for millet recipes and ensure access to diet diversity that is locally acceptable and highly nutritious. The WSHGs entirely manage these centres. They prepare a range of millet-based hot cooked items and ready to cook products. “We prepare pakoda, samosa, jalebi, idli, vada, kheer and kakare from ragi and little millets,” Dasmati Sunani, President, Dakua WSHG in Sundargarh’s Rajgangpur block, told 101Reporters. “Initially, we had no idea how people would react to our tiffin centre. However, today, we are happy. The demand for our food (millet recipes) is growing. Last month we earned around Rs 25000 as net profit,” she added.
Phulbasa Barla, Dakua WSHG member, recalled that initially their tiffin centres faced some resistance from locals. “For years, it has been unheard of for women from our village to be involved in businesses. However, gradually, things are changing. Today, we are more organised as a group, and people respect us and love our food,” beamed Barla. In Sundargarh, six millet tiffin centres were established between December 2021 and January 2022. An additional 21 such centres have been approved, and the memorandum of understanding was signed among the WSHG, Project Director, Agricultural Technology Management Agency and District Social Welfare Officer. To set up these tiffin centres, the OMM has sponsored Rs.30,000 for each WSHG.
Millet Shakti Cafe
Efforts have also been made to promote millet consumption in urban areas. For instance, in the collectorate campus of Keonjhar district, a Millet Shakti Cafe was established in October 2021. Ma Mission Shakti Women Federation manages the cafe, which offers different food items made from millets such as biscuits, mixture, khurma, rose cake, ladoo and eight grain varieties, including ragi flour, sorghum flour, little and barnyard millets. The cafe also provides tea, coffee and snacks to attract customers.