Millet – The answer in the long run…

The World is vastly dependant on agriculture for food production and in a country like India; it is the main source of livelihood for rural population. Since independence, India has experienced a lot of changes and achieved many things in the area of agriculture. One of the most popular changes is the Green Revolution. The green revolution contributed to widespread poverty reduction, averted hunger for millions of people, and avoided the conversion of thousands of hectares of cultivable land for other development purposes. . But the lesser known fact is that it also has left many communities at enormous loss with poverty, food insecurity and different health issues. It was started with keeping in mind the human need, the growing population with their limited land but what it failed to think was about the environment, water, soil and other natural resources and most importantly the sustainability factor. Even though it was human focused it also failed to provide food and better health for all.

Green revolution introduced high-yielding varieties of seeds and increase use of fertilizers and irrigation for more production and it has definitely helped us in many things in short run but in long run it has become a threat to the future of both humans and the earth.

  • As it requires a lot of irrigation, it is not suitable for all the regions in our country. It is a curse for communities who depend on rainwater for irrigation. Irrigation technologies have been developed which are not sustainable and increased use of underground water will leave us in a tragic state in few years. It is making some communities more vulnerable and susceptible to disasters and water crisis and hence poorer than they were. Green revolution which is not inclusive has increased poverty level of many farmers, as poor farmers could not afford high variety seeds, fertilizers and machinery. It has forced farmers to borrow and left many with huge debts causing suicide and high rates of rural to urban migration.
  • Due to the heavy chemical fertilizer inputs, land quality has gone down and yield has suffered.
  • Increase use of pesticide has made pests more resistant to many pesticides causing increase in pest attack.
  • Due to increase use of chemical pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers we have lost many birds and friendly insects and this can result in long term loss.
  • Chemicals used in agriculture are contaminating the groundwater and the chemical content in the food has affected general health. Consumption of one or two variety of food may provide us calories but can’t fulfill the requirement of micronutrients which are essential for human beings.
  • We are losing our vast varieties of traditional seeds due to the introduction of high yield seeds and many traditional crops have disappeared due to high concentration on wheat and rice,
  • Due to improper technological development farmers have been losing their indigenous methods of   adapting to climate change which have made communities more vulnerable and less resilient.

So it is the time for us to think of a better solution. What can give us a sustainable future from which both humans and nature would benefit?

There are a lot of initiatives that have been taken by the government and NGOs, but none of their attempts seem to be solving the problem in recent future. Organic farming has been a solution and it has been implemented in some regions and seems to be successful. Organic farming may solve the issue of pesticides and fertilizers but how far can it solve the issue of irrigation and natural resource management? What can give us a future without compromising with nature?

The Earth is rich and has tremendous capacity to meet the human need and it has been providing too.  But since the past two centuries, we have been facing lot of problems and threats from climate. Nature has its own management process but we are trying to manipulate. It is the time to look back at how our ancestors lived their lives and how they adapted to climate and saved the earth for us to live. So it is time for us to go back to the traditional crops which might have the answers to our problems and can save the earth for future generations. There are some traditional crops which have tremendous capacity to adapt to the climatic condition and do not require much input like fertilizer, pesticide and irrigation. One of the categories can be Millet.

Photographs of some types of millets traditionally grown in India:

ककुम
Foxtail Millet
कोदों
Kodo Millet
चेना या बर्री
Proso Millet
जोवारी
Great Millet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

बाजरा
Pearl Millet
मडुआ
Finger Millet
सांवा
Barnyard Millet
सावन या कुटकी
Little Millet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Millets need very little water for their production. Thus, they do not burden the state with demands for irrigation or power. Millet does not demand for subterranean water and can contribute to sustainable agriculture in our country.

Millets are adapted to a wide range of ecological conditions often growing on very thin soils. It does not demand rich soils for their survival and growth. Hence, they are a boon for the vast dry land areas.

It can provide livelihood to small farmers at the same time focus on ecological preservation.  Millet production is not dependent on the use of chemical fertilizers. Most millet farmers therefore use farmyard manures and in recent times, household produced bio-fertilizers. Therefore, they can significantly reduce the huge burden of fertilizer usage.

Grown under traditional methods, no millet attracts any pest. A majority of them are not affected by storage pests either. Therefore, their need for pesticides is close to nil. Thus, they are a great help to the agricultural environment.

Millets are amazing in their nutrition content. Each of the millets is three to five times nutritionally superior to the widely promoted rice and wheat in terms of proteins, minerals and vitamins.

Comparison of Millets with rice and wheat:

Millets Protein (g) Carbohydrates (g) Minerals (g) Fiber (g) Calcium (mg) Iron (mg) Energy (Kcal)
Finger 7.3 72 2.7 3.6 344 3.9 336
Sorghum 10.4 70.7 1.2 2.0 25 5.4 329
Pearl 11.8 67.0 2.2 2.3 42 11.0 363
Foxtail 12.3 60.2 4.0 6.7 31 2.8 351
Little 7.7 67.0 1.7 7.6 17 9.3 329
Kodo 8.3 65.9 2.6 5.2 35 1.7 353
Proso 12.5 70.4 1.9 5.2 8 2.9 354
Barnyard 6.2 65.5 3.7 13.6 22 18.6 300
Rice 6.8 78.2 0.6 1.0 33 1.8 362
Wheat 11.8 71.2 1.5 2.0 30 3.5 348

All these qualities of millet farming system make them the climate change compliant crops. Climate change portends less rain, more heat, reduced water availability and increased malnutrition. If there is any cropping system that can withstand these challenges, survive and flourish, it is the millet system.

While wheat and rice might provide only food security, millets produce multiple securities (food, fodder, health, nutrition, livelihood and ecological) making them the crops of agricultural security and future of our agriculture.

Millet is the answer which can give us a sustainable future from which both human and nature will benefit. This can be answer for us and our future generations, making a sustainable, rich and healthy planet and millet can be an answer for today and tomorrow…..

Last year we were quite successful in bringing back finger millet in our target area, where 46 farmers harvested finger millet. This year there are around 300 farmers have registered to cultivate finger millet. As the region is drought prone, millet can be an answer for them to solve the issue of food insecurity and malnutrition. It can contribute to livelihood, food security and availability of fodder for animals. Its capacity to grow with minimum water makes it one of the appropriate crops for the region and as there is no need for fertilizer and pesticide it can be the savior for farmers with low economic status. Millet is the answer for this region and can be for our country……. Along with promotion of organic farming, bringing back the millet to the mainstream agriculture can be the best options for Indian agriculture system in the long run.

Thank You

May God Bless….

Abinash

 

Reference:

One thought on “Millet – The answer in the long run…

  1. Pingback: Finger Millet – the wonder crop and God’s precious gift… | Full Of Life, Now....

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