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In Madhya Pradesh’s Dindoi, a UN-backed project aims to put millets on food map

Millets rating over rice and wheat, whether or not when it comes to nutritional vitamins, minerals and crude fibre content material or amino acid profile. They are hardier and drought-resistant crops, with a quick rising season (70-100 days, as towards 120-150 for paddy/wheat) and decrease water requirement (350-500 mm versus 600-1,200 mm).

Yet, these high-nutrient cereals — bajra (pearl millet), jowar (sorghum), ragi (finger millet), kodo (kodo millet), kutki (little millet), kakun (foxtail millet), sanwa (barnyard millet), cheena (proso millet), kuttu (buckwheat) and chaulai (amaranth) — aren’t the primary selection of shoppers and farmers.

For starters, kneading dough and rolling rotis is way simpler with wheat. Even the branded “multi-grain” or “navratna” atta accommodates 60.6 per cent to 90.9 per cent complete wheat. The motive: Wheat has gluten proteins that swell and kind networks on water being added to the flour, making the dough extra cohesive and elastic when put next to gluten-free millets.

In rural India, the National Food Security Act of 2013, which entitles three-fourths of all households to 5 kg of wheat or rice per particular person per 30 days at Rs 2 and Rs 3 per kg, respectively, has additional lowered the demand for millets.

“For the rural poor, rice and wheat were aspirational foods. An expanded public distribution system has provided them access to these maheen anaaj (fine grains), which is distinguished from mota anaaj (coarse grains),” says Meera Mishra, Country Programme Officer for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a United Nations company.

In April 2018, the Union Agriculture Ministry declared millets as “Nutri-Cereals”, contemplating their “high nutritive value” and “anti-diabetic properties” — 2018 was noticed as “National Year of Millets”. Earlier this month, the UN General Assembly adopted an India-sponsored decision to mark 2023 because the “International Year of Millets”.

Official promotion — millets had been beforehand known as “coarse cereals” — can’t, nevertheless, change concerted advertising efforts. “We need better recipes to get millets on our plates and make them part of everyday food consumption. Companies coming out with ragi rava idli and ragi dosa breakfast mixes (these, again, contain wheat semolina and refined flour) are a good start,” says Mishra.

According to her, farming of millets deserves encouragement particularly in view of their local weather resilience, quick cropping period and talent to develop on poor soils, hilly terrains and with little rain.

IFAD has supported an initiative to revive kodo and kutki cultivation in Dindori district of Madhya Pradesh. The project was began in 2013-14, with 1,497 women-farmers from 40 villages — principally from the Gonda and Baiga tribes — rising these two minor millets on 749 acres.

The recognized farmers had been provided good-quality seeds and skilled by scientists from the Jawaharlal Nehru Agricultural University in Jabalpur and the native Krishi Vigyan Kendra — on discipline preparation, line-sowing (as opposed to standard broadcasting by hand) and software of compost, zinc, bavastin fungicide and different particular safety chemical compounds.

Further, a federation of farmers’ self-help teams undertook procurement of the produce and mechanical de-hulling — the standard handbook pounding course of to take away husk from the grain was time-consuming.

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“The number of farmers growing kodo-kutki in our project area has risen to 14,301 in 2019-20. So has the total acreage to 14,876 acres,” claims Mishra. This has been enabled by the federations — there are 4 now — taking on manufacturing of ‘kodo bars’ containing 33.4 per cent of those millets together with jaggery (25 per cent), soyabean (16.7 per cent), ghee (11.6 per cent), sesame (8.3 per cent) and groundnut (5 per cent). The kodo bars are being provided to anganwadi centres in MP underneath an settlement with the state’s division of girls and youngster growth.

The IFAD project has helped in combating malnourishment amongst kids and reviving millet cultivation — crop yields are 1.5-2 occasions greater than earlier than. But replicating the Dindori mannequin past one district and throughout different millets stays a problem.

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