Thursday, December 31, 2009

HNY 2010 !

H ours of happy times with friends and family

A bundant time for relaxation

P rosperity

P lenty of love when you need it the most

Y outhful excitement at life’s simple pleasures

N ights of restful slumber (Don’t worry, Be HAPPY!)

E verything you need

W ishing you love and light

Y ears and years of good health

E njoyment and mirth

A ngels to watch over you

R emembrances of a Happy Years!!!!!


Saturday, December 26, 2009

The underground Treasure troves

Roots and tuber crops, due to their high calorific value and carbohydrate content occupy a remarkable position in the food security of the world, particularly in the developing nations. The economically and socially important tropical tuber crops are Cassava, Sweet potato, Yams, Dioscoreas, Aroids which include Elephant foot yam, Taro and Tannia (Amorphophallus, Colocasia or Taro, Xanthosoma or Tannia) and other minor tuber crops namely Chinese potato, Arrow root, Yam bean, Canna etc. In addition to the major tuber crops, there are many rhizomatous types and tuberising species which are grown and used in different parts of India. Some of them are already cultivated, but many others are grown wild as a neglected group. They are often used as food or serve as a source of raw material for the production of alcohol and animal feed.


The countries of Asia-Pacific region account for about 40% of world's total annual production of roots and tubers. Roots and tubers are a major staple in the Pacific islands, the Asian and African countries also use them as animal feed, and in starch-based industries. Increasing demands of cassava and sweet potato in non-food and organized market sectors are closely linked with increased production. There are considerable differences in the agro-climatic conditions suitable for the production for the different root and tuber crops. In fact, these crops remained neglected in terms of scientific input until the establishment of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia, the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria, and the International Potato Center (CIP) in Peru.

Consumption & Utilisation

In the developing countries (with the exception of China and Brazil), relatively small amounts (less than 20%) are fed to livestock and the rest is consumed as food. The consumption of root and tuber crops as food in developed countries is considerably smaller than it is in developing countries, but their use as animal feeds is relatively higher. They are staple foods in many parts of the tropics. These are also an important source of animal feed and industrial products. On a global basis, approximately 45% of root and tuber crop production is consumed as food, with the remainder used as animal feed or for industrial processing for products such as starch, distilled spirits, and a range of minor products.

In terms of contribution to calorie supply, the importance of root, tubers and derived products crops (all production included and converted into primary product equivalent) is small, compared to the contribution of cereals. The contribution of root and tuber crops to the world supply of calories is only 5% compared to 48% for cereals and 46% for other food. In Africa, root and tuber crops contribute 14% to the calorie supply as compared to 51% for cereals and 37% for other food, while in South America roots and tubers contribute 5% and in Asia only 4% to the calorie supply. Many tropical tuber crops are used in the preparation of stimulants, tonics, carminatives and expectorants. The tuber crops are rich in dietary fibres and carotenoids viz. carotene and anthocyanin.

Importance of Root and Tuber Crops

Among the tuber crops, Cassava is the most important one in the tropics and it ranks fourth, after rice, sugarcane and maize, as a source of calories for human consumption. It is a major carbohydrate food for about 500 m people in the world, and in Africa, it is the most important source of calories in the human diet. Cassava is cultivated in 16mha, spread over the continents of South America, Africa and Asia, producing 158mt of tubers. The average productivity in the world is 10.88t/ha and that in India is 27.42t/ha from an area of 0.24mha. However in sweet potato, average productivity in India is only 8-9t/ha as against the world average of 16t/ha. Area under tuber crops in India is 4 lakh ha under cassava and sweet potato besides approximately 2 lakh ha under elephant foot yam, Colocasia, Xanthosoma etc.

Research & Development

The CGIAR Institutes, mainly IITA, Ibadan, CIAT and CIP, Peru has made stupendous accomplishments in root and tuber research. Of major concern is the scarcity of germplasm collections and the greater lack of breeding programs. In India also Central Tuber Crops Research Institute (CTRI), Thiruvananthapuram is striving to promote R&D in tuber crops. Some other institutes like, RAU, Bihar, OUAT, Bhubaneshawar and BCKV, Mohanpur has made considerable contribution towards the development of root and tuber crops.


The crop has gained importance as a cheap source of carbohydrate, mainly for human consumption. Its importance in tropical agriculture is due to its drought tolerance, wide flexibility to adverse soil, nutrient and management conditions including time of harvest. As cassava has no definite harvest time farmers can have a staggered harvest, which provides security against famine. Cassava can be profitably cultivated throughout the year. Cassava roots are perishable with a shelf life of only a few days. The presence of hydrocyanic glucosides (HCN) in all plant parts presents some problems in marketing cassava. Other postharvest problems with cassava include proper handling and storage of cuttings under frost-free conditions. Even though cassava flour can be used as a partial substitute for wheat flour in the production of bread, market economics restrict this process to countries where wheat is an import commodity. Apart from its role as a staple/subsidiary food, during the past few decades there has been growing recognition of the value of cassava roots as a low cost energy source for livestock and as a raw material for industrial starch and fuel alcohol.

Sweet Potato

The tuber is an important source of carbohydrate. The yellow flesh varieties are rich in carotene. Sweet potato is a short duration crop, adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions. It exhibits no strict seasonality making it suitable as a combination crop with other crops. The major sweet potato growing states in India are Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In China, where approximately 85% of global sweet potato production is grown, multiple uses of the crop (e.g., as animal feed as well as processing of the roots into starch, noodles, and alcohol), have helped to diversify markets for what was once mostly a directly-consumed food crop.


Yams are cultivated in every tropical country, but their large-scale cultivation is restricted mainly to West Africa, South-East Asia including China and Japan. Yams are eaten mostly as boiled, baked or fried. Yam production is also significantly influenced by day length. In India, traditionally yams are grown in homesteads. Yams are usually baked or boiled and mashed. Unless the production expenses are reduced, little potential exists for commercial processing of yams into items like that of potato chips or french fries.


Aroids comprise several species under the family Araceae that are cultivated for food in most of the tropical and subtropical parts of the world. Important aroids cultivated in India are taro, tannia, giant taro/ alocasia and elephant foot yam. Aroids are short-statured perennial plants, grown as annuals. They store starches in large corms at or below the sod surface. Corms which contain 25 to 35% starch, are plagued by the presence of an acrid factor, which causes itchiness and considerable inflammation of tissues. The potential for expansion of these markets is considered to be very limited, as the acceptability is poor among the masses. Colocasia tubers are also good source of protein, minerals like phosphorus and iron. Elephant foot yam is basically an underground stem tuber and is gaining popularity due to its yield potential and culinary properties. These are crops having high yield potential and starch value and they are yet to be properly explored.

Harvesting & Marketing

The production, harvest and marketing of root and tuber crops are generally labor intensive. The sheer bulk of root and tuber crops, compared to cereals, is an even bigger problem than is their underground harvest. The processing of traditional consumable products from these crops may also require high labor inputs. Root and tuber crops share some similarities from a market perspective at the farm level. For instance, much of root and tuber crop production is consumed on-the-farm, or at distances that are relatively closer to production.

Post harvest management

All of the root and tuber crops have the distinct disadvantage, following harvest, of limited storability, and are fairly perishable if the conditions are not suitable. This characteristic of root and tuber crops predetermines the need for post-harvest treatment of these crops to preclude very large post-harvest losses.

Export avenues

Trade enquiries show that there is considerable demand, of about a lakh tonnes of cassava chips, for exports to the South East Asian countries. There is a need for series of studies be initiated to assess afresh the export potential from traditional and non-traditional areas, export demand of tuber crop-based products, policy issues relating to growth of exports, extension of technologies to non -traditional areas and linkages with APEDA for expertise and training in the area of exports of tuber crops. The lack of a clear export policy had hampered Indian interests, outpricing its products from the global marketplace and the price factor had been playing a crucial role in the cassava chips export scenario.

Major roadblocks

One of the persisting problems with root and tuber crops is its unrealized yield potential that could only be attained through yet-to-be-developed technologies. In the case of root and tuber crops, the potential for yield is considerably higher than the actual yield. Both biophysical i.e., diseases, insect pests, low-yielding cultivars, poor crop husbandry and socio-economical; scarce land, shortage of labor, shift in food habit linked with urbanization constraints are adversely affecting production of root and tuber crops.

The way-ahead

The potential of the roots and tubers being processed into snack foods depends on economics and public acceptance. Unless the costs of production can be reduced dramatically through mechanization and selection of earlier maturing clones, the future is not bright. Both obstacles are not insurmountable. However, a decided commitment to research and development must be made for this to happen. Some of the indicated changes will likely be driven by consumption demands and production opportunities as a result of technology yet-to-be-developed for root and tuber crops. Some of these technologies will no doubt entail food processing technologies and expanded feed markets, as well as current and new industrial uses for the harvested products of root and tuber crops.

The Year that went by…..

This last year’s journey forward for India was rife with hopes and speculations as the general elections were round the corner. When many parties paid the price and leaders got grounded in the elections for ignoring agriculture, the Congress could harvest the rewards for its pro agriculture stance, esp. with the loan waiver scheme.

The union budget which was presented right after the election results on July 6, 2009 by the Finance Minister, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, also attached great significance to agriculture. Proposing direct transfer of fertilizer subsidy to farmers, nutrient based subsidy regime for fertilisers and National Food Security Act (NFSA) were some of the highlights of the budget. FM also proposed of increasing agricultural credit flow for the year 2009-10 to Rs 3,25,000 crore, the payment of an additional subvention of 1% to farmers who repay their short term loans on schedule, and special attention to farmers who had taken loans from private money lenders and who have not been covered by the earlier loan waiver scheme. An allocation of Rs 39,100 crore was provided in the budget for NREGS, a whopping increase of 144%. The budgetary allocations were increased by 75% over the last year for Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP).

The drought and floods that rocked the Indian coasts during 2009, also deeply impacted the crop fields. The government pegged the rice output at 71.65 mt for 2009-10 kharif season, a steep reduction from the 2008-09 kharif season’s 84.5 million tonnes. The decline in farm output pushed the prices of essential food items north. The index of primary articles showed food reaching a 10-year high of 19.95 per cent during the first week of December.

Another significant event that took place last year was the GEAC’s approval to introduction of Bt Brinjal. Though the actual introduction may take some time, it is higly unlikely that it will miss the boat. When approved, Bt Brinjal will become the first GM food crop to be cultivated in India and also the first GM brinjal to be approved anywhere else in the world. This will open the gates for many other GM food crops that are in various stages of trials.

Last year also witnessed the collective strength of farmers and their clout in policy decisions. The Center’s FRP of Rs 129.84 per quintal measured much lower than the SAP announced by the UP government which amounted to Rs 160-170 a quintal. It was not a surprise when the farmers united by the opposition took to Rallies and Dharnas. So a clarification soon ensued when the Parliament passed a Bill that introduces the new sugarcane price regime, after the government allayed concerns of the Opposition that states would not be required to pay the difference between Central and State Advised Price to farmers.

Next in line to follow was the signing of FTA with ASEAN countries. The tariff reduction of certain farm products can be deleterious to the farming community. So the new year will be crucial as to see how the treaty will affect India’s farming community.

As the economic recession stormed the entire world, India and to more extent India’s rural lands were unscathed in this flurry of economic inactivity. So did the industry on which the rural folks dependent the most. The agri input industry thrived exceedingly well when compared to the exigencies that the Indian agri scene went by.

Climate change is not a possibilty but a real threat, the signs of which are apparent from the untimely rains, drought, flood and declining crop productivity. The Copenhagen Climate Conference 2009 therefore was critical. Although no legally binding commitments for reducing CO2 emissions were made in the Copenhagen Accord, atleast the document recognized that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of the present and that actions should be taken to keep any temperature increases to below 2°C.

The last year in many ways was an eye opener to our policy makers. The fact that we are not prepared enough to face food crunch and the absence of a permanent disaster management strategy has been quite evident. Our persistent ineptness to cope with the sudden changes in the farming situations and the archaic policies that we fervently follow has started to affect our country. So the year 2010 may be a year when we can see many policy changes that will be designed to quell our fears or atleast to create an illusion of security.

COP 15 : Nothing to cope for agriculture

Amidst buzzing expectations, rallying protestors, leaked emails and draft Danish texts, the much awaited 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) took place at Bella Center in Copenhagen from the 7th to the 18th of December, 2009. The Conference with participants from 192 countries representing governments, business community and civil society was aimed to evolve a successor to Kyoto protocol the first phase of which expires in 2012.

The issues that were on board to be discussed were the quantum of emissions that can be allowed for each country. To keep the warming below the 2°C, scientists recommended cuts of 25-40% by 2020(relative to 1990 levels). Developed economies such as US and UK which has grown on carbon rich economy, should logically agree for deepest cuts. Although the carbon foot print per person in developing economies is comparatively less, they cannot also shy away from their obligation of proper cuts. Another issue that was discussed was the one regarding the financial assistance to poorer nations to cope with climate change. Poorest countries which cannot afford to evolve with climate change need help financially and technologically. The EU proposal of $100 bn a year was tabled even though the estimates range up to $ 600 bn a year.

After two weeks of deliberations and regular walk outs, an agreement was reached which was widely publicized as a ‘political accord’. The ‘accord’ rife with ambiguities was drafted by the US, China, India, Brazil and South Africa on December 18. The accord was "recognized", but not "agreed upon". The document recognized that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of the present and that actions should be taken to keep any temperature increases to below 2°C and support for a US$ 30 billion fund over the next three years for the developing countries. It also includes aims to create medium-term financial mechanism that will be able to provide US$100 billion dollars every year to the developing countries from the year 2020. A very specious part of the deal was the inclusion of a commitment from the BASIC countries, all of which are rapidly growing emitters, to allow “international consultations and analysis under clearly defined guidelines” of their voluntary national actions. Further, the document is not legally binding and does not contain any legally binding commitments for reducing CO2 emissions not even for the greatest emitters. Although the Heads of States participating in the conference were cautious enough to use words like ‘pleased’ and ‘meaningful’, the futility of the whole exercise was widely evident from their cautious words and measured optimism.

The accord, as of now, is only a draft and has to be adopted by consensus by the 193 members of the UNFCCC to come into effect. If adopted, it will form the mandate to continue the negotiating process into next year and finalise a legally-binding international treaty -- something that was originally planned to happen in Copenhagen itself.

What it holds for agriculture is significant. By now, it is evident that climate change is not a possibility but a real threat, the signs of which are apparent from the untimely rains, drought, flood and declining crop productivity. With the changing climate, the crops will be facing newer challenges. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in its most recent assessment that “At lower latitudes, especially in seasonally dry and tropical regions, crop productivity is projected to decrease for even small local temperature increases (1-2°C), which would increase the risk of hunger. So even when the countries at the conference are complacent of their 2°C agreement, their implications on the subsistence farmers are abysmally grave.

A warmer globe means a threat to low lying areas. They can be inundated. Sea water can intrude and invade the farming space. So anticipating a drier, saltier and wetter climate, we will be in need of more of varieties that can tackle these situations. The scientific communities who are sensitized with the issue are already on that path.

As far as the farming community all over the world is concerned, this accord was disappointing. In pursuit of economic development, the heads of state have denied the poorest of the poor their right to survive.

- Anjana Nair-

The Unstoppable Food Price Rise

India is the country, where governments both at the Centre and in at least one state have been voted out over soaring food prices. While the government reviews the pricing of cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables in the light of food inflation crossing 20 per cent fuelling overall inflation the statistics on wholesale prices present a grim picture. But for hundreds of millions of Indians across the country, the steep climb in food expenditure has been a harsh daily experience for some months now. According to official data, the prices of rice and wheat have increased by 11.75 per cent and 12.6 per cent, respectively, on a year-on-on year basis.

Spurred by the soaring prices of essential food items like pulses, potato and other vegetables, the annual rate of increase in the prices of food items soared to 19.95 per cent the highest in more than a decade as supply shortages hit hard. Food inflation stood at 19.05 per cent at the end of November. There are food items where the government has no such intervening role; and their price trends tell a more compelling story. Thus the price of bajra has gone up by 27 per cent, and that of dals by 60-70 per cent. The story applies to vegetables as well. There is also the strange case of sugar, which is sold at regulated prices by the government in open markets as well as through the PDS. Over the past year, its price has gone up by 125 per cent in wholesale markets across the country. The same story applies to the diets of non-vegetarian Indians. Mutton price has risen by 33 per cent this year. In the poultry sector, the price of chicken has gone up by 29 per cent, while egg price has doubled. The price of fresh water fish is up by 76 per cent.

But Mr Sharad Pawar is in no mood to accept the neglect from Govt’s side and laments that the soaring price is a global phenomenon, the government is making determined efforts to contain the prices of food grains and essential commodities, unprecedented rise in prices of essential commodities have created a serious difficulty for people. He also added that one of the reasons for rising prices can be attributed to this year's climatic conditions, but added we are confident that the policies of the government will ensure that rise in certain essential food commodities will definitely be brought under control, which warrants more intervention by the state governments in the market.

Some in the government view the current price rise as seasonal, mostly affecting fruits and vegetables, and feel that when the new crop arrives in January and February, rates will ease up. Others are less sanguine. They argue that while drought was undoubtedly a factor, ineffective action against hoarders remains a major stumbling block. Food prices are not going to come down anytime soon as the government expects the supply-side constraints to continue in the short-term due to a drop in summer farm output on account of poor monsoon and floods in some parts of the country, the finance ministry said in its mid-term review but hoped to stem spiralling prices through imports.

A parliamentary committee has pulled up the finance ministry for its failure to intervene timely and squarely to address price rise with due seriousness. The committee recommended that a comprehensive food pricing management policy be formulated not only to provide the much needed relief to consumers but also an antidote for the growing economic imbalance in the country. In its analysis of the causes behind the price rise, the committee noted wide variation between wholesale and retail prices in commodities like rice, pulses, potato and onion suggesting artificial shortage and spiking of prices by intermediaries.

Economists feel that in the face of soaring food prices the immediate objective of the RBI will be to curb inflationary expectations by adopting tight monetary policy. RBI Governor D Subarao recently said “If food price inflation persists for long, they can fuel inflationary expectations and the monetary policy will have to take a view on this.” The government has already asked states to ensure that the nation-wide public distribution system delivers foodgrain at controlled rates to the poor. It may follow this up with open market sales at lower prices for the middle class.

Rise in prices of primary articles of consumption of the common man that has been occurring in the recent times is indeed a cause of concern, and this needs to be attended to on an urgent basis. The government can augment supply through imports, it expressed doubt that this option may not be available for certain commodities such as pulses, available only in limited quantities in the international market.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Millets for Climate Change

Millets often referred as miracle crops/grains, are major food sources in arid and semi-arid regions of the world, and feature in the traditional cuisines. They are also considered as the lifeline for the dry and rainfed tracts. They are put to multiple uses as food, feed and fodder, besides being the raw material for industries. Millets are some of the oldest of cultivated crops and the staple foods for millions, particularly in undeveloped and developing nations of Africa and Asia.

Sorghum/Jowar, Pearlmillet/ Bajra are given the status of major millets and other millets, often referred as minor millets are Finger millets, Kodo millets, proso millet and many more. They are grown with limited water resources and usually without any fertilizers or other inputs by a multitude of small farmers in many countries. Therefore, and because they are mostly consumed by disadvantaged groups, they are often referred to as "coarse grains" or "poor people's crops". They are not usually traded in the international markets or even in local markets in many countries. The farmers seldom, therefore, have an assured market in the case of surplus production.

The spatial distribution of millets either as a primary crop or as allied crops largely depends on the growing habitat and the amount of rainfall the region receives. The millets are the hardest grains and can sustain and flourish even in the most adverse agro-climates with poorest quality soil, minimum or, almost nil water, most adverse weather variations and lastly, the miniscule care and management practices.

Millets can be cultivated throughout the year, whereas wheat and paddy are seasonal crops. It is learnt that minor millets such as sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, foxtail millet, etc can grow without irrigation and are nutritious than rice.

Forgotten Grains

The millets exhibit unimaginable levels of inter and intra specific diversity, a lot of which we have lost and very few were recorded and documented at centres like, ICRISAT and NRC Sorghum. After the green revolution, top priority was accorded to rice and wheat. Hundreds of high-yield varieties were introduced by agricultural research centres. But at the same time, there was not much of an opportunity to grow crops like millets. Crops like sugarcane, paddy and wheat require more water. To fulfill this demand, underground water was exploited.

In the four decades between 1966 and 2006, while the total production of rice more than doubled (125%), from 38mt to nearly 86mt, and the output of wheat jumped threefold (285%), from just over 18mt to 70mt, the total production of all kinds of millets has actually come down by 2.4%— from almost 18.5mt to below 18mt. This decline in the production of millets can be largely attributed to the fall in the cultivated area, from over 36mha half-a-century ago to just over 21mha at present. Over the last 40 years, over 40% of the areas that were under millet cultivation is now being used to grow other crops.

Fighting the cause for Climate Change

If the temperature rises, the crop pattern and the farming system will be affected badly. Millets are climate change compliant crops and many of these crops can fix carbon in the soils thereby becoming agents of carbon.

Millets are highly energy and resource efficient crops, as with the least utilization of inputs it yields considerably by virtue of its acclimatization, structural and physiological adaptability, and drought and disease-pest evading mechanisms. Indian agriculture with more dependence on monsoon and seasonal rains, could well readopt the forgotten crops to regain the dominance over the coarse grains and reorient the agricultural prosperity in the state with the available resources.

Threat to Wheat and Rice

Climate change portends less rain, more heat, reduced water availability and increased malnutrition. It is important to note that, once we cross the ceiling of two degree celsius temperature rise, wheat may disappear from our farming system.

Wheat is an extremely thermal sensitive crop and it can’t withstand this temperature rise. Similarly, rice is the most consumed grain in the world and the demand is increasing over the years. But current paddy cultivation methods are affecting the environment. Most farmers follow paddy farming in the standing water system. But methane gas emanating from inundated rice fields is a greenhouse gas. If these two crops disappear from the farming sector, then which are the crops that will fill the gap?

Millets are the answer. Millets can be cultivated throughout the year, whereas wheat and paddy are seasonal crops. Millets are capable of growing under drought conditions; they can withstand higher heat regimes. Millets like Kodo millet, Proso millet, Little millet, Finger millet, Barnyard millet and Pearl millet grow under non-irrigated fields and also in low rainfall area with 200 to 500 mm. They can still provide a good yield under water scarcity.

Food security issues

One more problem that could occur in the near future is food insecurity. Wheat and rice may give only food security, but millets give multiple securities like food, fodder, health, nutrition, and livelihood. More over, millets attract neither pest nor disease. Therefore, their need for pesticides is nil.

Increasing malnutrition has become a major problem for the government. Millets can be used to meet this demand, as they are a storehouse of nutrients.

The Neglect

Policy neglect, lack or, very few research attention limited to the dry tracts, MSP and subsidies, Irrigation facilities creation and the phenomenon of Green revolution has robbed the significance of these precious, but not much precarious grains. The government policy of thrusting rice and wheat on all states through the PDS killed millet cultivation. The output declined from 18.41mt in 1966 to 17.97mt in 2006, a fall of over 2%. On the other hand, wheat production went up from 18.1mt to 69.73mt in the period, an increase of 284%. Rice production rose 125% during the period.

Millet-based bio diverse cropping systems can come as a solution to this agrarian crisis as it liberates farming from water intensive cropping such as rich or wheat to a nature commodity controlled farming system.

Helping hands

Some NGOs’ and Government bodies have initiated commendable programs to save these grains. The Millet Network of India (MINI), is one among such organizations working for the cause of promoting the millets in the Indian diets. According to P V Satheesh, Convenor, Millet Network of India (MINI), millet farming systems offer food security apart from fodder, health and nutritional security. "We are persuading the Centre to allocate at least 40% of its food security budget to millet-based farming and food systems," he said.

The NGO is also trying to create “parliamentarians of millets” with participation from the policy makers, NGOs and other stake holders.

Millet Network of India is an alliance consisting of more than 65 institutions, scientists, farmers, civil society groups representing over 15 states. The organisation has sought priority to millets as part of the Food Security Act. “We are seeking recognition of millets as a climate change compliant crop and promotion of its cultivation and consumption,” says P V Satheesh.

Grains of Health

Millets, namely jowar, bajra, ragi, foxtail millet, little millet, and kodo millet not only require less water to grow but are also super cereals with more nutrients than other food grains. These crops are still the principal sources of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals for millions of the poorest people. The protein content in millet is very close to that of wheat; both provide about 11% protein by weight. Millets are also rich in B vitamins, especially niacin, B6 and folic acid, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Millets also have more fibre than rice and wheat. Some varieties have as much as 50 times more fibre than rice. A bowl of halwa made of finger millets or ragi is 30 times rich in calcium than a bowl of rice.

If a farmer grows millets, he gets a large quantity of fodder, besides the nutritious crop. The fodder helps him feed animals, which give enough farmyard manure, thus leading to a fall in use of chemical fertilisers. So, the crop is a bulwark against drought and debt, not to speak of malnutrition.

Millet days ahead

The new opportunities provided by climate change issues including drought and the National Food Security Act must be fully seized upon by governments to rejuvenate farming systems as well as livelihoods in the dry land areas by offering pride of place for millet based farming systems. These can be the best possible solution against malnutrition in the country, if included in PDS, so as to create a huge market for millet farmers acting more as an incentive. Government can also include millets into the National Food Security Act in the backdrop of the unprecedented drought and looming climate change crisis.

Being a largely agricultural country, India has one solution, and this could be adopted in any country with minor changes. It seems that our local millets could yet provide the best answer to the global problem.