(GIST OF KURUKSHETRA) Millets – Future Food
Millets – Future Food
In a world grappling with pressing issues such as climate change, malnutrition, and poverty, an ancient yet highly resilient grain has emerged as a beacon of hope – millets. These small cereal grains, belonging to the Poaceae family, have garnered attention for their incredible nutritional value, environmental adaptability, and positive impact on various challenges. Often referred to as “Nutri-Cereals,” millets are not just a food source; they are a solution to some of the most critical global issues.
A Resilient Crop with Climatic and Economic Significance:
Millets, originally cultivated in Asia and Africa, have become a symbol of resilience in the face of climate variability.
- As the world grapples with unpredictable weather patterns and water scarcity, millets stand tall as a drought-resistant crop that requires minimal water and thrives even in poor soil conditions.
- Their ability to flourish in arid environments makes them a vital food source for millions of smallholder dryland farmers in these regions.
- Economically, millets play a significant role by offering farmers a sustainable alternative to traditional crops.
- With their low water requirements and suitability for a range of soils and climates, millets serve as a smart risk management strategy for farmers.
- By embracing millet cultivation, these farmers reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a more resilient agricultural system, ultimately improving their livelihoods.
The Rise of Millets as Superfoods:
- Millets are not just staple crops; they are nutritional powerhouses that have earned the label of “superfoods.”
- The term “Nutri-Cereals” aptly describes their high nutritional content. Varieties like sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, and more offer impressive amounts of fibre, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
- Their unique nutritional composition, including high levels of iron and zinc, low glycemic index, and gluten-free nature, make them an ideal addition to a balanced diet.
- For instance, finger millet boasts three times the calcium content found in milk, making it a potent source of this essential mineral.
Millets have the potential to help us achieve SDGs like SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being), SDG 12 (Sustainable Consumption and Production), and SDG 13 (Climate Action).
Addressing Iron Deficiency:
- Recent research led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) highlighted that millet can significantly improve haemoglobin and serum ferritin levels, effectively reducing iron-deficiency anaemia.
Government Efforts to Promote Millets:
- The Government of India has launched a mission to cultivate millets, aiming to achieve nutritional security while following recommendations by NITI Aayog. This initiative includes promoting biofortified millet varieties and integrating millets into various public delivery channels.
- Under the National Food Security Act, state governments are advised to procure millets at minimum support prices and distribute them through the public distribution system.
- Additionally, India’s National Nutrition Mission, POSHAN Abhiyaan, has encouraged the inclusion of millets in programs like Integrated Child Development Services and Mid-Day Meals.
The year 2023 has been declared the ‘International Year of Millet’ by the United Nations following India’s proposal. India will be using its G-20 presidentship to bring these nutri-cereals back to the dining table.