The Curious Case Of Millets

What if I tell you that there is some one in the food family that is highly nutritious for kids and adults, easy to grow, require little care, can simply rely on rain water, survive in dry lands, would you believe that. May be or may be not.

But if I tell you the same family has been neglected by not including in any of the government policies, the farmers who grow them have never been encouraged, there is no distribution system, there is no market available where you could find this family of grains, there is no support system, you would believe me, as this has unfortunately become the new meaning of government and its policies. Gross negligence leading up to the near extinction.

Hold it right there, it’s not a sad story after all. This special family of grains, let me introduce them now, “The Millets“. They are making a come back, slowly but surely.  But the journey of Millets is very strange. From being the most popular staple diet it went into complete anonymity.

People, both the haves and have nots switched to rice, in fact to polished rice. This was not out of choice but out of necessity. Mostly, thanks to the green revolution. Yes the same green revolution that was credited for rescuing the whole nation from a great famine in the 70’s.

Thanks to the green revolution, the indigenously produced seeds were no where to be found. Thanks to the green revolution, the farming became heavily dependent on pesticides, chemicals and fertilizers. Amidst all this craze for green revolution emerged the new king of grains, the Rice and because of the government backing it became the undisputed king pushing the “Millets” into complete oblivion. Rice became the new status symbol and even the poorest of the poor who couldn’t afford a meal even once a day,  strived for the rice. However, despite the green revolution, no other food grain or for that matter any other farm produce could even come close to the Millets.

If something is as good as Millets, just like everything else in nature, it can only be suppressed for so long. It had to bounce back. There were some section of the farmers who despite a clear lack of support from the government or from the people still continued growing Millets. With the help of NGO’s and some very committed individuals the Millets are slowly finding their way back. Mind you there is a long way to go, but it’s atleast on the right track.

I had the privelege of talking to two such individuals over the weekend, who along with their team of dedicated volunteers in Anantapur district are working on building a sustainable model for Millets. Their efforts include

  • Creating awareness about Millets
  • Encouraging farmers to take up Millet cultivation ( especially suited in dry lands such as Anantapur )
  • Working with the government to get Millets into PDS ( Public Distribution System )
  • Setup Sahaja Aharam a store in Hyderabad where the farm produce is directly taken to the door steps of the customers
  • Adopt organic farming to grow Millets, which is a much healthier and less expensive way of farming
  • Establish a market for the Millet based food products
  • Organize general awareness campaigns to encourage the people to start considering Millets as part of the regular because of it’s health benefits.
A great wealth of information on Millets can be found @ Earth, 360.
I know we all like underdogs to fight all the odds and end up on the other side of the finish line, Millets is one such underdog fighting the odds. It just needs a helping hand to make it to the other side of the finish line. It’s up to us now ! We save the Millets, we can save ourselves ( better health ) and their by we can save the farming crisis to a certain extent.

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