On Friday, August 9th, I will travel to Bhubaneswar for the remainder of the summer to work on two components of the TIGR2ESS project. The first part of the fieldwork is based at the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) and the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT). I will spend one week working with professors and crop experts in “Special Programme for Promotion of Millets in Tribal Areas.”
The program’s website explains, “Traditionally the highly nutritious millets formed a substantial part of the diets and the cropping system in the tribal areas of Odisha. Millets require less water and are more resilient to climate vulnerability. They are also cultivable in undulating terrain. Paddy gaining prominence in the Public Distribution System (PDS) has resulted in reduced consumption of millets, resulting in extreme cases of nutritional deficiency. It has also led to unsustainable cropping systems increasing the demand for water. Millets are the answer to address both increased crop failures and nutritional deficiency and need to be revived.”
To revive the millets, the flagship program (Special Programme for Promotion of Millets in Tribal Areas) has been launched by the Department of Agriculture & Farmers Empowerment, Odisha. The program intends to revive millets in rainfed farming systems and household consumption. The program will be implemented in 30 blocks in 7 Districts of Odisha over the period of 5 years. The program is envisaged to be implemented by community based organisation facilitated by experienced facilitating agencies.
Major objectives of the millets program:
- Inclusion of Millets in State Nutrition programmes such as ICDS, MDM, ITDA Welfare Hostels and eventually in PDS.
- Increasing Household consumption by setting up decentralized processing units at panchayat and block level.
- Improving productivity through improved agronomic practices and organic inputs.
- Increased availability of millet seeds through community managed/community owned seed centres with focus on local varieties.
- Strengthening of Farmer Co operatives / Farmer Producers Organisations for better marketing of millets.
Recent mention of the millets program in the news:
- Odisha plans to introduce millets in PDS, mid-day meal by year end
- “The southern region of Odisha is home to many tribals and millets have been their staple diet for generations. The introduction of millets in PDS in this region will be beneficial as malnutrition is prevalent here”
- As per the Hyderabad-based National Institute of Nutrition calculations
- Ragi (finger millet) has 34 times more calcium, four times more iron and 18 times more fibre than rice.
- Little millet has 1.7 times more calcium, 13 times more iron and 38 times more fibre than rice.
- Foxtail millet has three times more calcium, four times more iron and 40 times more fibre than rice.
- But due to government policies favouring paddy and wheat, in the past 50 years area under millet cultivation has reduced substantially.
- Recipes based on millets for inclusion in ICDS were finalised through a participatory approach in consultation with the community, anganwadi workers and children
- Odisha Millet Mission lanched to ensure nutrition security
- “In a bid to deal with nutritional deficiency, the Odisha government has decided to promote large-scale production of millets in tribal pockets.”
- Over 100 crore rupees ( more than $140.8 million) will be spent during next year on this mission, which will scaled up in the future. This will benefit around 500,000 farmers, especially in the rain deficit areas of the state.
- Millets have been grown mostly in rain deficit areas by the small and marginal farmers
- Humble Millets Nutrition Revolution
- “The nutrition rich grain millet is making quick a comeback in the State’s agrarian landscape after decades of international neglect.”
- “Though millet is a staple diet for the tribals of Odisha since time immemorial, development agencies and farmers ignored the climate resilient cereal in favor of rice, wheat, and other cash crops such as oilseeds and pulses.”
- Compared to the requirement of 5,000 liters of water to grow one kilogram of rice, millets need hardly 250-300 liters.
- The mission won the 2017 SKOCH Award for being among the top 30 transformational innovative projects in India
- Farmers will need more support through improved machinery, such as harvesters and processors of millets, which can bring down the cost of production even further and encourage local value addition
“Though millet is a staple diet for the tribals of Odisha since time immemorial, development agencies and farmers ignored the climate resilient cereal in favor of rice, wheat, and other cash crops such as oilseeds and pulses.”Manoranjan Panda
After spending the week at KISS/KIIT, I will spend the following ten days working at NCDS (Nabakrushna Choudhury Centre for Development Studies), also in Bhubaneswar. I will work alongside Professor Srijit Mishra, the director of NCDS, and observe women’s practices in the marketplace selling millets/millet-produced products. I will also likely take a trip to the Koraput field area to observe agricultural practices and collect feedback on how the mission has been progressing so far. (Image below from the millets program website, from a prior field visit).
To prepare, I have started looking through past finance reports, “work done” reports (e.g., consolidation of farmers’ data–all female), successful case studies (in Rayagada for example), and Excel sheets tracking farmers’ seed varieties, yields, and villages.