Millet seeds, a powerful weapon against hunger TOU

Millet seeds, a powerful weapon against hunger

 TOU

Millet seeds, a powerful weapon against hunger

Subasa Mohanta is no stranger to hunger. It has been a constant in the lives of this 50-year-old farmer, her husband and two children.

Despite 16-hour back-breaking work as a farmhand, carting stones at the construction site, he can still come home without eating enough.

But in 2018, a small bag of seeds helped Subasa change his life.

Mrs. Mohanta scatter finger millet seeds – given to her by the Government of Odisha as part of a rural program supported by the World Food Program (WFP).WFP) – In 0.6 hectare land surrounding his brick-and-mud house in Goili village of Mayurbhanj district.

In about two months, she harvested the first crop of mandia (Oriya word for ragi or bajri). Subasa sold a portion of the 500 kilograms she had harvested at Rs 40 per kg, kept a small portion of it to feed the hungry at home, and distributed the rest to friends and family. And then she sowed the seeds of change once again in her field.

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Studio Priya, UN India / Anadi Charan Behera from Bhubaneswar

Subasa Mohanta with Cycle Weeder.

In Mandia, a symbol of hope

Over the last three years, the story of Subasa’s hope, confidence and empowerment has become associated with the origin and growth of the Odisha Millets Mission (OMM), the main program of the Department of Agriculture and Farmers Empowerment of the Regional Government.

Her days are now divided between cultivating her own land, in addition to her 3.2 hectares of leased land and advising women in Mayurbhanj and other districts of Odisha about the best practices for millet cultivation.

She also attends local reporters who stand in line for a glimpse of Mandia Mani, whom she has earned for her hard work and willingness to try new crops while a few others were open to the idea.

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Ragi, before and after the procedure.
Studio Priya, UN India / Anadi Charan Behera from Bhubaneswar

Ragi, before and after the procedure.

Pancakes for a healthy drink

Finger millet has not only changed the fortunes of the Mohantas, who have now become diverse in growing other millets like suan (a little millet) and sorghum. It also made its place in their diet. From Mandia Kakra Peetha (a type of pancake) to Mandia Malt (a health drink to start the day), a family nutrition bowl is also part of OMM’s journey to success.

Millet plant heat (up to 64 C), high tolerance of drought and flood, climate change and depletion of natural resources make the crop a clear choice for farmers.

Millets require less water than rice and wheat, the two main components of the Indian diet. Short-term millets grow easily without fertilizer, making it a healthier and safer alternative for both the consumer and the soil. Intercropping of millets with other crops is also beneficial for soil quality: it helps in controlling water flow and helps in soil conservation in erosion-prone areas.

“In addition to being a rich source of nutrients and a climate-resilient crop, millet can diversify the food system, support resilience building and adaptation, and increase livelihoods for small farmers, including women, nationally and regionally,” said Bisho Parajuli, WFP. Says. And Country Director in India.

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Members of the self-help group in the bio-input unit.
Studio Priya, UN India / Anadi Charan Behera from Bhubaneswar

Members of the self-help group in the bio-input unit.

Women ahead

In Odisha, what started four years ago with leaflets, loudspeaker announcements from vans and seed distribution among villagers by volunteers, community resource persons and agriculture department officials, has now flourished in a movement run by women’s self-help groups.

Women, who are still largely seen as post-harvest laborers and seed keepers, have taken the lead in running the ragi process, improving millet yields with bio-input, and running cafes and centers serving millet-based dishes.

The most common form of millet consumption in Odisha – Namr Jakh (a porridge made from unsalted grains) – now enjoys other traditional dishes like bara, malpua, khaja ​​and chakuli.

No more ‘poor man’s food’

The seeds of change have taken root, but the road ahead is not without challenges.

Millet is still seen as food for the poor and disadvantaged, an image problem that needs to be addressed through promotions, social media campaigns and celebrity awareness messages.

Millets need the support of the urban consumer to find their rightful place on the shelf.

While that shift may be a few summers away, women in the villages and small towns of Odisha are moving forward with full vigor in their millet work. And life is changing, grain by grain.

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