Millets: Sustaining Resilience

Imlisanen Jamir

India is embarking on a global resurgence of millets. The heartbeat of this movement lies in New Delhi's ambitious campaign to transform millets into a global phenomenon, shaking off their outdated reputation. The crowning achievement in this endeavor is the United Nations' recent nod to India's proposal, declaring 2023 as the International Year of Millets.

Unlike many parts of the world, millets are no strangers to Indian households. These grains have been steadfast staples in the Indian diet, particularly in rural areas, and their influence endures even today. They have been instrumental in providing balanced nutrition.

Once a kitchen staple for many, millets gradually lost their place in everyday cooking. This shift occurred when large food companies, motivated more by profits than by the well-being of people, began favoring other grains over millets. This trend was not unique to India; many countries experienced a similar decline in millet production and consumption. As wheat gained dominance in the market, millets were pushed to the sidelines, resulting in a shift in public perception towards them.

Various events under India’s new Millet revitalisation programme are being held across the country. In Nagaland, during such events, officials and experts share insights that unveil the historical significance of millets, once the bedrock of Naga' diets. These petite grains, heralded as "superfoods," are more than just sustenance; they embody a legacy of preservation and resilience.

Amidst the volatile global markets, the vulnerability of farmers exposed to the vagaries of the market, coupled with the looming specters of climate change, pandemics, and conflicts, underscores the profound importance of resilience, rooted in preserving the biodiversity that underpins local food systems.

India's approach to millets though is grounded in practicality. Despite being rich in protein, antioxidants, and nutritional value, millet and grain cereals have often been overshadowed by trendier counterparts. Yet, India's history underscores these grains' capacity to meet dietary needs effectively.

As part of the campaign's international dimension, the United Nations declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets, acknowledging India's efforts to champion these grains' nutritional value and their role in addressing food inequity. Millets' versatile attributes – their shorter growth cycles compared to wheat, coupled with their water efficiency – can have a transformative impact on global food and health systems. Experts concur that an earnest commitment to millet production can be a significant step in alleviating micronutrient deficiencies across nations.

These grains, they argue, are not just crops; they encompass a transformative concept. Rooted in ecological harmony and climate adaptability, millets forge bonds within communities and demonstrate the resilience that stems from embracing diversity. Protecting this diversity is a commitment that resonates deeply, for in nurturing diversity lies the essence of nurturing resilience itself.

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