The year 2023 has been designated as the Year of Millets, both in India and Internationally. Millets are climate change-friendly crops for farmers who tolerate abiotic stresses and yield in challenging environments and conditions. Millets have numerous nutritional and health benefits for consumers. While we have a history of cultivation, crop diversity, and consumption, it is still scattered and unorganized. Consumer demand hence becomes a primary driver, incentivizing farmers towards more millet cultivation.
On Sunday 21st August 2022, AGRO RANGERS organization, a project funded by Nisarg Foundation, in collaboration with two other farmer-focused organizations, Indradhanush and Shekru, organized the first day-long event, Millet Jatra, dedicated to raising awareness of the advantages of including millet in the daily diets of Indians. There were a total of 25 stalls in which many farmers, dieticians, nutritionists, women’s self-help organizations, the Krishi Vigyan Kendra, NGOs, public health experts, chefs, artists, policymakers, student volunteers, etc participated to support the cause. The millet Jatra or fair included various activities such as skits on health and nutrition-related health benefits of millet, food tasting stalls of recipes made from millets, culinary demonstrations of these recipes, photography, interview bites, played games with millet, tattoo stalls, and many more. More than 1000 consumers visited this festival and enjoyed the millet food organized. The students from Symbiosis College volunteered with the organizers to give the cooking demos and helped in different activities.
The fair was celebrated to honor the crop of millet, to toast the acceptance of the proposal of India, which was supported by 72 nations and thus accepted by the United Nations declares 2023 as the International Year of Millets (IYoM) and to generate demand for millets and to provide an extra rate to the farmers so farmers could grow more millets. The International Year of Millets offers an innovative opportunity to promote millets as an essential part of the food basket by boosting global production, ensuring efficient processing and consumption, encouraging improved crop rotation, and encouraging greater connectedness across food systems. The Government of India wishes to commemorate IYOM in 2023 and utilize the opportunity to increase the acceptance and awareness of Indian millets, recipes, and value-added products globally.
The Millet Jatra tried to bring to light widely ignored whole grain – millet, which has been part of our culture and civilization for a long time but is being ignored by the recent generation in their diets. The crop is preferred because of its high yield and short growing season, even under high hot and dry climates, and holds many benefits for human health. Including millets in daily diet has several health-related benefits:-
Beta-glucans, flavonoids, anthocyanidins, tannins, lignans, and policosanols are just a few of the outstanding antioxidants found in millets. These antioxidants are essential for decreasing total and LDL cholesterol as well as for keeping blood arteries healthy and
removing clots, which reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Millets are a rich source of dietary fibre, which helps the digestive system operate better. It treats irregular bowel movements, gas, bloating, and cramps. It also strengthens the immune system and enhances the general health of other crucial organs, including the liver and kidneys.
Research has shown that millets, including the foxtail and proso kinds, are efficient at slowing the formation of malignant cells in a variety of tissues. Millets include phytochemicals that have antiproliferative properties and reduce the growth of cancer cells in the colon, breast, and liver without harming healthy cells.
For anybody trying to lose weight and drop a few extra pounds, millets are a boon. The BMI of obese people may be significantly reduced by including millets into the normal diet, such as millet flour or by eating millets for breakfast. Daily substitution of millets for rice may enhance intestinal health, reduce fat storage, and aid in long-term weight reduction.
Despite these many health benefits millets are being overlooked both by the producers and the consumers because post-harvest challenges abound in the primary processing of minor millets, along with reliable market linkages for farmers and FPOs. Storage and shelf life of raw grains are better, but once de-hulled/de-husked or processed into flour, it becomes a challenge. Though tremendous opportunities exist in farm gate processing, mechanization, sorting, grading, destoning, de-hulling/de-husking, etc. Schemes are available for processing machinery from Government programs like the PMFME scheme, the awareness about all this is low, and SHG, FPOs need sufficient hand holding to avail and go ahead with it. On the consumer side, a significant awareness initiative is needed to highlight the nutritional and health benefits of various millets, specifically the minor millets.
This campaign from the government to designate the year of 2023 as the year of millets comes at an opportune time. It has become imperative, especially in light of the COVID epidemic, for consumers to make healthy choices and pay more attention to wellness and wellbeing. An alternative exists beyond our staples, rice and wheat, and food diversity on the plate in the form of various millets. Consistent consumer demand drives more consumption of both raw grains and processed products, which in turn would incentivize farmers to consider millet for their crop selection. In light of all this, the space is ripe for a campaign directed at consumers to increase millet consumption and provide direct linkages to farmers and entrepreneurs providing that in raw and processed forms.
The Millet Jatra organized at the Koregaon Park in Pune, was also a small step from a few farmer -focused organizations in the direction of crating awareness about the significance of millet for both the consumers as well as the farmers. The initiative was first in the series of events which will be held for the same purpose and was greeted enthusiastically by the locals, small business owners, farmers, artist, NGOs, etc and concluded after successfully spreading the awareness about the benefits of millets for humans in a unique and fascinating way.
The purpose of this event it to generate demand for millets and to provide extra rate to the farmers so farmers can grow more millets. There was total 25 stalls presented by farmers, processors, farmers producing organizations, entrepreneurs, KVK, etc. Moe than 1000 consumer visited this festival and enjoyed the millet food which was organized at Monalisa Kalagram, Koregaon Park. The students of symbiosis college volunteered with us to give the cooking demos and helped us in different activities.
There were total 32 stalls of selling millet based value added products and cooking stalls presented by different farmers, women self-help groups, millet entrepreneurs, KVK, NGO’s etc. More than 1000 people visited this event and enjoyed millet food in this one day event.
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