FINGER MILLET: REVIVING INDIGENOUS ROOTS

With the climate change now a proven reality and creating havoc for Indian agricultural sector, there is an imminent need to bring in environment friendly farming practices to meet the need of the ever-growing health conscious Indian population. With the droughts and non-seasonal rains becoming the order of the day, the hapless farmer is now frantically looking for solutions that will help him sustain his livelihood, produce huge quantity of crops organically with minimum hurt to the environment and at the same time meeting the country’s food demand. This is what is now taking the farmers back in time and rediscovering the benefits of sustainable organic agricultural practice of finger millets (ragi) which are nothing less than power-packed wonder food.
Since millets require little water and are highly drought resistant, they grow well in arid and semi-arid regions and in dry areas. Further, millets are relatively resistant to pests and pathogens, compared to cereals.
Nutritional Profile of Finger Millet:

Source: Nutritive value of Indian Foods, National Institute of Nutrition, Millet Network of India and   USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) – Values per 100 grams of edible portion

The nutritionally venerated millets had struggled to catch priority spot in government policy, projects and schemes tracing back to 1958 with a feeble presence in the millet policy structure, until 2011 when the first scheme was launched focusing on production of millets. Equal attributes to private sector as their ready to eat and ready to serves products’ supply chains focused on cereals, wrecking millet-based production systems.

It is the nutrition value and associated health-benefits of millets appreciated through consumer groups affected by alarming dietary diseases, that have shifted the focus back to finger millets flooding supermarket shelves with product lines focusing on diet-based food products. Cultivation of finger millets is catching up amongst the farmers due to their drought resistant capability and minimal requirements of inputs like water. Finger Millets are smart having multiple untapped uses such as food, feed, biofuels and brewing which will benefit future generations of farmers as well as consumers. The government now too realizes this and is making efforts to promote millets on a large scale. In this direction, the government has declared 2018 as the National Year of Millets to boost production of the nutrient-rich millets and the agricultural industry involved in it. Observation of Year of Millets will help in promoting production and consumption of finger millets and substantially contribute in fight against targeted hunger and mitigate effect of climate change in the long run.

In India, Karnataka is one of the leading states in area under finger millet cultivation which is about 3492 (58.72 per cent) thousand hectares during 2010-15, followed by Maharashtra 613 (10.31 per cent) thousand hectares, Uttarakhand 602.7 (10.13 per cent) thousand hectares, Tamil Nadu 451.9 (7.60 per cent) thousand hectares, Odisha 26.5 (4.82 per cent) thousand hectares and Andhra Pradesh 193 (3.25 per cent) thousand hectares[1]. Thanks to Karnataka government’s policy initiative which alters the way of promoting millets in consumer food plates, prioritising millets and bringing them under Public Distribution Systems (PDS), Odisha government walking the same path, went ahead by inclusion of finger millet products in mid-day meal programs. This is a perfect time to be in the finger millet business and create markets for millets across India and specifically in metro cities, where there is huge demand from consumers.

There are, however, a few roadblocks that stand in the way of finger millet cultivation and marketing. For one, finger millets have a lower yield per hectare than rice and wheat, making them less profitable than those popular crops for farmers. Various breeds of finger millets especially for processing qualities have to be developed. System of Millet Intensification (SMI) is one of the production systems adopted by Pragati an NGO in Koraput district of Odisha which resulted in higher production of finger millets, contributing to the food and nutritional security of the tribal households in Koraput, even under extreme weather conditions. Under this system seven varieties of indigenous seeds of finger millets were promoted. India being the largest exporter of millets (most varieties) now has a large potential for domestic market. Online organic e-commerce stores are a catalyst for pushing consumption of finger millets. Improvement in the pricing and marketing by taking into consideration various factors like quality, regional use, and availability of market outlets will go a long way to boost finger millet production as a commercially viable crop. Popularizing the consumption of finger millet in diverse uses – porridge, bread, cakes, biscuits in schools, training institutions, school feeding programs, hospital canteens especially for HIV/AIDS and TB patients and traditional dishes in hotel industry will be another strategic plan for wide utilization of the crop. The Organic and Millets National Trade Fair along with nationwide promotion of finger millets as healthy food grains at the same time motivating farming sector with climate resilient crop to shield from extremities of climate, is now a win-win situation for finger millets which will pull the consumer demand and push the crop production.

Author: Intercooperation Social Development India

Resources:

[1] Annual Report by Agricultural department, Government of India

उत्तरा बाई की कहानी, गांव नैगवॉ, कटनी

नेशनल हाईवे क्रमांक ७ कटनी जवलपुर के बीच रोड किनारे वाला गांव जो कटनी जिला मुख्यालय से १५ क.म. की दुरी पर है , यह रोड के दो भागों में विभाजित है।

नैगवॉ गॉव में श्रीमती उत्तरा बाई पति श्री राम सिंह ठाकुर वर्ष २००२ से जैविक खेती का प्रशिक्षण कटनी जिले के KVK पिपरौंध से लेकर अपने 8.50 एकड़ ज़मीन के कुछ हिस्से पर जैविक खेती के तौर तरीकों को अपनाना प्रारम्भ किया था । निवर्तमान कलेक्टर श्री आर.आर. गंगारेकर जी एक दिन शाम को उनके खेत पहुंच गए, की हमे भी जैविक तरीको से उगाई गयी सब्जी दे दो। जब खेत जाकर देखा की उस समय की ५ किलो केचुआ से बनाई गयी वर्मी कम्पोस्ट और खेतों में बने नापेड के पिट और शाम ढलते ही गोबर गैस से जलने वाले बल्व दिखाई दे रहे थे । उन्होंने उत्तरा बाई को जैविक किसान घोषित कर दिया । समय बढ़ता गया परन्तु मांग और उत्पादन का संतुलन बनाते हुए यह परिवार जैविक खेती करने के लिए पीछे नहीं हटा, इनकी देखा देखी गॉव के १०-१५ किसानो ने भी जैविक खेती के तौर तरीको को सीखने के लिए उत्सुक हुए और महिला किसान उत्तरा बाई की तरह सब लोग अपने घरो और खेतों मई केचुआ खाद की टंकी, गोबर गैस, जीवामृत खाद, मछलीखाद, गौमूत्र से मटका खाद बनाने की प्रकिया धीरे -धीरे आगे बढ़ाने लगे।

उत्तरा बाई के खेतों में सिर्फ जैविक खेती को बढ़ावा देना बस नहीं था, उत्पादन को ध्यान में रखते हुए जैविक पद्धति को प्रमोट किया । जिसमे धान की नर्सरी से लेकर खेत में रोपाई का समय व पौधों की लम्बाई को ध्यान में रखकर खेतों में SRI पद्धति से रोपा जाता है । जिन पथरीली मुरुम वाले खेतो में वर्षा ऋतु की एक फसल लेना मुश्किल था, वह अब काम पानी होने के बावजूद भी ३ फसलें लगाई जाने लगी हैं। रबी की फसल में गेहू, चना और मसूर खरीफ की फसल में धान मक्का आदि व सब्जी में बरबटी, करेला, प्याज, लहसुन, मिर्ची, आलू आदि प्रकार की सब्ज़ियां उगाई लेन लगी। आज दिनांक को जब हम उत्तरा बाई के खेत पहुंचे तो बरबटी की तोड़ाई चालू थी, जबकि करेला, बैंगन कई प्रकार की सब्ज़ियां लगी हुई थी। उत्तरा बाई के साथ सिर्फ इतना ही नहीं है, की उन्होंने सिर्फ अपने गाओं और अपने खेतो में जैविक का उदाहरण प्रस्तुत किया है, उनके घर में प्रवेश करते ही अलमारी में कई प्रकार के पुरस्कार रखे दिखाई देते हैं। पंचायत, जिला व प्रदेश स्तर के भोपाल तक के पुरस्कार प्राप्त हैं।

उत्तरा बाई के पति PGS सिस्टम को भी जानते हैं, परन्तु वो कहते हैं, इसमें कई प्रकार की खामियां हैं, क्यूंकि इसमें गलत लोगों के प्रवेश होने का खतरा है।

जो जैविक खेती नहीं करते वो भी शामिल हो सकते हैं, या बाद में उत्पादन बढ़ाने के लिए कुछ-कुछ नई तकनीक के माध्यम से आय बढ़ाने के लिए तरकीब निकल सकते हैं। इन्ही छोटी-छोटी भ्रांतियों को सुलझाने और किसानो को समझने के लिए हम सब मिलकर मानव जीवन विकास समिति के सक्षम कार्यकर्ताओं के सहयोग से भूमि-का के बैनर तले रहकर किसानो को, लोगो को समझने का अभियान चलाकर काम करने की सम्भावना बनती है। ताकि किसानो में जैविक खेती के प्रति रुझान और उनका सही उपयोग हो कर सही दाम मिल सके, इस ओर प्रयास करने की सम्भावना बनती है।

उत्तरा बाई के काम को देख कर सरकार ने जैविक पाठशाला खोल दी है, जिसमें हर बुधवार को आस-पास के कई किसान पढ़ने आते हैं। और उत्तरा बाई उनको जैविक खेती के बारे में पढाई करवाती है। नैगवॉ गॉव की जैविक पद्यति को देख कर आस-पास के कई गावों में भी इसी प्रकार की तकनीक अपनाने के लिए किसान तैयार हुए हैं, और तैयार को रहे हैं। पास का ही गॉव बण्डा इसका उदाहरण बन रहा है।

उत्तरा बाई के काम को देख कर सरकार ने जैविक पाठशाला खोल दी है, जिसमें हर बुधवार को आस-पास के कई किसान पढ़ने आते हैं। और उत्तरा बाई उनको जैविक खेती के बारे में पढाई करवाती है। नैगवॉ गॉव की जैविक पद्यति को देख कर आस-पास के कई गावों में भी इसी प्रकार की तकनीक अपनाने के लिए किसान तैयार हुए हैं, और तैयार को रहे हैं। पास का ही गॉव बण्डा इसका उदाहरण बन रहा है।

निर्भय सिंह

CASE STUDY: THE GREENER REVOLUTION – HARNESSING THE BENEFITS OF AGROECOLOGY

The greener revolution

Location: Seven project areas in Jharkhand, West Bengal and Rajasthan (India), Chitwan (Central Nepal Region), and Chittagong Hill Tracts (Bangladesh)

Aim of program: To improve production and market access for small-scale farmers in marginalized areas by following agroecological principles and diversifying production and nutrition over the long term

Food shortages in the 1960s led the governments of India and neighboring countries to introduce ‘Green Revolution’ techniques. The rampant use of chemical fertilizers had major consequences on productivity, including a dramatic decrease in soil quality and fertilizer efficiency, erosion of water aquifers, and pest infestations in crops. Small-scale farmers owning less than a hectare of land each were hit hardest by the fallout of the Green Revolution.

Farmers quickly found that they were unable to pay for expensive seeds and fertilizers, leading them to sell off or lease out land to large-scale commercial farmers. Bhoomika’s Sustainable Integrated Farming Systems (SIFS) are one potential way to alleviate the negative effects of the Green Revolution. The system encourages small-scale farmers all over India to contribute their knowledge of indigenous farming practices to a centralized system and communicate the challenges they faced as a result of the revolution.

Sustainable Integrated Farming System: Strategy

Impact

Ecology

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Crop diversification

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Society and Culture

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Women are rarely acknowledged for their contributions to the male-centric farming sector in India – individuals like Sonja Devi are changing this mindset through the adoption of agroecological farming methods. At Bhoomika’s Farmer Field School, she was taught energy-efficient farming methods

 
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Farmers use indigenous farm practices to find effective local solutions and increase social cohesion through sharing knowledge with fellow farmers

Economy

Bhoomika supports small holder farmers in capacity building, designing organic farming systems based on available resources and a combination of techniques (soil water conservation, cropping sequence management etc.) and facilitating market access. Farmers start cooperatives to process, certify, market and distribute their produce together through common facility centres (CFC). Bhoomika empowers farmers, brings all stakeholders together and thus promotes clean, green and fair farming. Join India’s small holder farmers sustainable food movement, participate in our events, volunteer at our street vendors and learn more about Bhoomika’s sustainable and fair value chains.

 
 
 

THE BEAUTY OF EATING SEASONAL

There was a time when all foods were seasonal. Each season brought us something new and we looked forward to the change in diet.

Today, we have lost that delightful connect with the changing of seasons. Almost every vegetable is available throughout the year. And some fruits too.

However, we can make a conscious choice to eat seasonal as much as possible. So what should you be eating this summer?

1. Amaranth Greens (Chauli)

Amaranth is deemed a superfood, dense with nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, iron, tocotrienols and fibre, which make it good for the heart, anti-inflammatory, good for the nervous system and digestive system.

2. Bottle Gourd (Lauki)

As bottle gourd is mostly made of water, it helps you deal with heat and is also useful for stomach problems like acidity, which mostly occurs in summer. Bottle Gourd prevents extreme loss of sodium, satisfies thirst and helps in preventing exhaustion.

3. Pumpkin (Sitaphal)

Pumpkin possesses great cooling and diuretic properties. It is also good for improper digestion and eliminating intestinal worms from the digestive system. Pumpkin contains potassium and fibre. It also controls blood pressure and sugar. It helps in curing skin diseases. It is thought to regulate blood sugar levels and help stimulate the pancreas — thus diabetics are advised to eat pumpkin.

4. Snake Gourd (Padval)

It creates a cooling effect for the body. It is useful in correcting disorders, processes nutrition and it restores the normal functioning of the system. Snake gourd helps to stimulate the production of body fluids and relieves dryness.

 

Snake gourd is the best household remedy for heart problems. The juice from the fresh leaves is useful for heart disorders like palpitation and pain in the heart on physical exertion.

5. Karela (Bitter Gourd)

Bitter gourd is a cure for boils, rashes, fungal infections and ring-worm. It also helps control hypertension and diabetes, and generally increases immunity.

6. Cucumber (Khira)

Cucumber has 96% water content, which helps in keeping the body hydrated and in regulating body temperature. Cucumber also contains a lot of potassium, magnesium and fibre that work effectively for regulating blood pressure. The high water content in cucumber is very effective in flushing away the toxins from the digestive system and hence aids digestion. Regular intake of cucumber helps to dissolve bladder or kidney stones.

7. Ridged Gourd (Jhinga)

This summer vegetable helps in purifying blood, lowering the sugar level of the blood and is also good for your stomach or digestion-related issues.

8. Ash Gourd (Petha)

It helps to keep your body cool and healthy, as it contains almost 96% water It also helps to protect you from heat stroke. Ash-gourd is loaded with nutrients. It’s an excellent source of vitamin B1 (thiamine), a good source of vitamin B3 (niacin).

 Its high potassium content makes this a good vegetable for maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Ash-gourd is also useful in treating respiratory disorders like asthma, blood-related diseases, and urinary diseases like kidney stones.

Our next blog posts will take each vegetable separately and suggest recipes that can be made with these vegetables. From raitas and pachdis to steam fired vegetables to curries, the scope is tremendous. Bon Appetit!

 
 

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