Dindori Millets Project- Agriculture UPSC
GS: Paper-3: Agriculture and Dry Land area Development: Prelims-Personality Test
Context: 2023 will be observed as the International Year of Millets after India’s proposal to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) was approved. In the last six decades, millets have seen a drop in area despite green evolution in the 1960s; however, the productivity seems to go up with the help of high-yield varieties and better technologies.
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has supported an initiative to revive kodo millet and kutki (little millet) cultivation in Dindori district of Madhya Pradesh.
- The IFAD project was started in 2013-14, with women-farmers from 40 villages - mostly from the Gonda and Baiga tribes - growing these two minor millets.
- The identified farmers were supplied good-quality seeds and trained by Jawaharlal Nehru Agricultural University in Jabalpur and the local Krishi Vigyan Kendra.
- They were trained on field preparation, line-sowing and application of compost, zinc, bavastin fungicide and other specific plant protection chemicals.
- Further, a federation of the farmers’ self-help groups undertook procurement of the produce and also its mechanical de-hulling.
- [Mechanical de-hulling is the traditional time-consuming manual pounding process to remove husk from the grain.]
- The IFAD project has helped in meeting nutritional goals and reviving millet cultivation.
Millets score over rice and wheat, whether in terms of vitamins, minerals and crude fibre content or amino acid profile. They are gluten-free. In 2018, the Union Agriculture Ministry declared millets as “Nutri-Cereals”, considering their “high nutritive value” and also “anti-diabetic properties”. 2018 was observed as ‘National Year of Millets”. The UN General Assembly too adopted an India-sponsored resolution to mark 2023 as the “International Year of Millets”. Yet, these high-nutrient cereals (fine grains) aren’t the first choice of either consumers or farmers.
Background of Millets
Millets are one of the oldest foods, these are the small-seeded hardy crops which can grow well in dry zones or rain-fed areas under marginal conditions of soil fertility and moisture. Millets are cultivated in low-fertile land, tribal and rain-fed and mountainous areas. These areas include Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
Due to their short growing season, millets can develop from seeds to ready to harvest crops in just about 65 days. This highly beneficial characteristic of the millets is of vital importance in thickly populated regions of the world. If stored properly, millets can keep well for two years or beyond.
Millets can not only grow in poor climatic or soil conditions and provide nutritious grain as well as fodder, but these can also very well fit into multiple cropping systems under irrigation as well as dryland farming due to their short growing season.
The prolonged and easy storability of millets under ordinary conditions has given them the status of Famine Reserves and this feature is of great importance for India, as the agriculture of our country suffers from unexpected changes in monsoon.
Types of Millets in India
The millets commonly grown in India include Jowar (sorghum), Bajra (pearl millet), ragi (finger millet), Jhangora (barnyard millet), Barri (Proso or common millet), Kangni (foxtail/ Italian millet), Kodra (Kodo millet) etc. Let us read about them in detail and also learn their regional names.
- Barnyard Millet is a high source of iron and fibre. It is known as Kuthiravali in Tamil, Oodhalu in Kannada, Odalu in Telugu, Kavadapullu in Malayalam and Sanwa in Hindi.
- Finger Millet is a staple that is a very good substitute for oats and cereals. It is known as Ragi in Kannada, Ragulu in Telugu, Kelvaragu in Tamil, Koovarugu in Malayalam and Mundua in Hindi.
- Foxtail Millet is rich in minerals and vitamins. It is known as Thinai in Tamil, Kirra in Telugu, Thinna in Malayalam, Navane in Kannada and Kangni in Hindi.
- Little Millet is also loaded with iron and fibre, the regional names are Chama in Malayalam, Same in Kannada, Samai in Tamil, Sama in Telugu and Kutki in Hindi.
- Proso Millet is known as Barri in Hindi, Panivaragu in Tamil & Malayalam, in Kannada it is called Baragu and Varigalu in Telugu
- Pearl Millet is a high source of proteins, it is known as Bajra in Hindi, Sajje in Kannada, Sajjalu in Telugu, Kambu in Tamil and Kambam in Malayalam
Importance of Millets
According to the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, in 2016 – 2017, the area under the cultivation of millet declined with 60% less coverage area (to 14.72 million hectares) due to change in consumption pattern, conversion of irrigated area for wheat and rice cultivation, unavailability of millets, low yield, dietary habits, less demand. This resulted in fall in the level of nutrients like vitamin-A, protein, iron and iodine in women and children leading to malnutrition.
- Most of the millets are non-acid forming, non-glutinous, highly nutritious, and easily digestible foods. Due to low glycaemic index (GI) being gluten-free, it helps in a slower release of glucose over a longer period of time thus reducing the risk of diabetes mellitus. Individuals suffering from celiac disease can easily incorporate various millets in their diets.
- Millets are rich sources of minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. It also contains appreciable amounts of dietary fibre and vitamins such as folic acid, vitamin B6, β- Carotene, and niacin. The availability of high amounts of lecithin is useful for strengthening the nervous system. Therefore, regular consumption of millets can help to overcome malnutrition.
- Although Millets are rich in phytochemicals like tannins, phytosterols, polyphenols and antioxidants, they do contain some anti-nutritional factors which can be reduced by certain processing treatments.
- Millets have a wide capacity for adaptation because they can grow from coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh to moderately high altitudes of North-eastern states and hilly regions of Uttarakhand. Millets can withstand variations in moisture, temperature and the type of soils ranging from heavy to sandy infertile lands.
The Indian policymakers refocused their attention towards millet farming systems and enacted policies to create an enabling environment for the farmers. With respect to millets production, some of the existing schemes by the Government of India include:
- Integrated Cereals Development Programmes in Coarse Cereals ICDP-CC based Cropping Systems Areas under Macro Management of Agriculture -MMA.
- Initiative for Nutritional Security through Intensive Millet Promotion – INSIMP a part of Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana” – RKVY which is the only comprehensive initiative to support millet production.
- Rainfed Area Development Programme – RADP: a component of the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana – RKVY.
Given below are some of the advantages of Production of Millets in India.
- Millets are termed as the ‘miracle grains’ or ‘crops of the future’ as they can not only grow under harsh circumstances but are drought-resistant crops that require fewer external inputs.
- Millets are dual-purpose crops. It is cultivated both as food & fodder, thus providing food/livelihood security to millions of households and contributing to the economic efficiency of farming.
- Millets contribute to mitigating climate change as it helps reduce the atmospheric carbon pressure CO2. On the contrary, Wheat being a thermally sensitive crop and Paddy is a major contributor to climate change through methane emission.
- Production of millets does not depend on the use of chemical fertilizers. The millet crops do not attract pests and are not affected by storage.
- Millets are remarkable in their nutritive value be it vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre or other nutrients. It is nearly 3 to 5 times nutritionally superior to wheat and rice. Sorghum (Jowar) is an important source of polyphenols, antioxidants, and cholesterol-lowering waxes.
- Millets help in curbing obesity, lowers the risk of hypertension, CVDs, T2DM, cancers as well as helps in preventing constipation due to their high dietary fibre content coupled with low glycaemic index.
Millets as Smart Crop
- Millets are Photo-insensitive (do not require a specific photoperiod for flowering) & resilient to climate change.
- Millets can grow on poor soils with little or no external inputs.
- Millets are less water consuming and are capable of growing under drought conditions, under non-irrigated conditions even in very low rainfall regimes
- Millets have low carbon and water footprint (rice plant needs at least 3 times more water to grow in comparison to millets).
- Millets can withstand high temperature. In times of climate change Millets are often the last crop standing and, thus, are a good risk management strategy for resource-poor marginal farmers.