Food Security through millets

Dr.Vivak M. Arya, Tamanna Sharma
Millets are a group of grains belonging to the grass family Poaceae. Millet is a collective term used to refer a range of small-seeded annual grasses that are grown as grain crops, primarily on marginal soils in dry areas of temperate, subtropical, and tropical climates. Millets encompass a diverse group of cereals including pearl, proso, foxtail, barnyard, little, kodo, browntop, finger and Guinea millets, as well as fonio, sorghum (or great millet) and teff. These grains were one of the first plants domesticated for food, with the earliest

International Year of Millets

evidence dating to the Indus civilization. Traditionally, millets have been the intrinsic part of Indian diet and culture and they are mentioned in ancient texts Yajurveda and Ayurveda .In Ayurveda millets were considered special grain that have sweet, heating, dry and light effect on body and is regarded as medicinal food. It is grown in about 131 countries and is the traditional food for around 60 crore people in Asia & Africa.India is the center of origin for most of the millets. India is the largest producer of millet in the world. It accounts for 20 % of global production and 80% of Asia’s production. India was a significant millets producer for a long time. However, Africa has seen a sharp rise in millet production in recent years. They assist in ensuring food security in locations where they are culturally relevant and are firmly ingrained in Indigenous Peoples’ cultures and customs. Millets are wonderful, ancient crops with a lot of nutrition. In our collaborative efforts to empower smallholder farmers, achieve sustainable development, end hunger, adapt to climate change, promote biodiversity, and alter agrifood systems, millets can play a critical role.
a) Nutritional Superiority: Due to their higher levels of protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals like iron, millets are more affordable and nutritionally superior to wheat and rice. Furthermore, millets are high in calcium and magnesium. Ragi, for instance, is recognized for having the greatest calcium content of all the food grains. Millets can offer nutritional security and serve as a defence against nutritional deficiencies, particularly in children and women. Its high iron content can combat the greater incidence of anemia among Indian women and newborns. Millets are gluten-free, therefore an excellent option for people suffering from celiac diseases often irritated by the gluten content of wheat and other more common cereal grains.
b) Low glycime index: Due to lack of gluten and low glycemic index (52.7), millets can aid in addressing a variety of lifestyle issues and health issues, including obesity and diabetes (a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels). People with diabetes can more easily control their blood sugar levels because of low-GI foods’ ability to prevent blood sugar spikes after meals.
c) Easy to grow: Millets are resistant to climate change and are photo-insensitive (they don’t need a specific photoperiod to flower). Millets can grow on poor soil with little to no external inputs. Millets use less water and may grow in arid environments without irrigation and even during periods of very low rainfall. Millets have a small water and carbon footprint. The maturation time for certain millets is 45-70 days, half to that of rice.
d) Healthy food:Niacin, which is abundant in millet, aids our body in controlling more than 400 enzyme reactions. Niacin is crucial for healthy skin and proper organ operation. In fact, it’s such an important compound that it’s often added to processed foods to enrich them. The darker kinds of millet are particularly good sources of beta-carotene. This organic pigment supports the health of your eyes and functions as both an antioxidant and a precursor to vitamin A, assisting yo.ur body in fighting off free radicals.Millets help probiotics to function more effectively, which may have positive impacts on human health. They contribute to the body’s immune system and can be used to combat childhood undernutrition.
e) Carbon Sequestration: Millets also provide superior fodder because they have more tillers or branches than corn and sorghum. Taking into account the water requirements and methane emissions of rice fields, millet crops also have a good ability to trap carbon and so aid in climate adaption. Millets have the potential to be a miracle crop that combats the negative consequences of climate change while providing food, nutrition, and livelihood stability.
f) High water and nutrient use efficiency: C4 photosynthetic pathway is highly advantageous to millets this increases carbon dioxide fixation efficiency in millets. This indirectly also increases the water use efficiency and nitrogen use efficiency making them the future crop of the world and extremely useful source of C4 genes in grain plants.
g) Adaptability to climate change: As the climate change is expected to raise the global temperature, which in turn will turn the agro-climatic conditions mostly in tropical and sub-tropical countries. Therefore there is a need to shift the agriculture gradually towards drought resilient crops that will cope with climate change and ensure food and water security as well. This situation will demand sustainable crop substitutes and millets the best solution available.
Keeping in view the huge potential and alignment with numerous UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), The Government of India (GoI) has prioritized millets. In April 2018, millets were rebranded as “Nutri Cereals,” and the year 2018 was declared to be the National Year of Millets, with the intention of greater promotion and demand generation. This was done in accordance with the National Food Security Mission’s sub-mission on Nutri Cereals, which was implemented in light of their high nutritional value, potential for empowering small & marginal farmers economically, and contribution to maintaining the earth’s biodiversity. SushriShobhaKarandlaje (Minister of State for agriculture) said the IYM2023 will lead India towards Food and Nutritional Security. According to her, millets are regarded as “Smart Food” since they are simple to grow, often organic, and have a high nutritional value. The IYM2023 commemoration is an opportunity for India to promote Nutri-cereal Millets globally and place them in the world’s “food map” in line with PM Modi’s vision of “VasudaivaKutumbakam” (The World is One Family). The Government of India sponsored the International Year of Millets (IYM) 2023 proposal, which was backed by the Prime Minister and approved by the UN General Assembly (UNGA). The proclamation has been essential for the Indian government’s leadership in IYM celebrations.The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, has also expressed his desire for IYM 2023 to become a “People’s Movement” and for India to become a “Global Hub for Millets.” Recently, on 20th December, the Agriculture Ministry hosted a Millet food festival in Parliament for the members, to raise awareness about the importance of millet. Also, theSpecial Millets Lunch was organised by the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare on the Parliament premises. The Ministry took this initiative to promote millet in the country. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will be aided by the IYM 2023 and efforts to boost millet production. This International Year serves as a helpful reminder of the significance of this crop. Additionally, it offers a unique opportunity to draw attention to the nutritional and health perks of millet consumption, the suitability of millets for cultivation under challenging and changing climatic conditions, and the creation of sustainable and creative market opportunities for many nations around the world in order to benefit farmers and consumers worldwide. Several events and activities, including conferences and field activities, and the issuing of stamps and coins, are expected as part of the celebrations aimed at spreading awareness about millets, inspiring stakeholders to improve production and quality, and attracting investments.
Conclusions: The difficulty of ensuring food security due to the projected rise in global population can be resolved by millets, a crop that is both naturally climatically adaptable and nourishing for human health. India can play a major role in ensuring food security of its own and also of the world with gifts of millets.Millets are important by the virtue of its mammoth potential to generate livelihood, increase farmers’ income and ensure food & nutritional security all over the world.
(The authors are from SKUAST-Jammu)