Millets have good nutritional value and are good for health. Once a popular food grain among the Girijans in particular millets have lost its prominence over the last 30 years due to various reasons.
It is also to be noted that Visakhapatnam district is a major millet growing area in the State, accounting for 50 per cent of the State's ragi acreage and 80 per cent of State's little millets area.
Two NGOs, WASSSAN and Vikasa, are jointly implementing a project, funded by IDRC of Canada to bring millets back to the Girijan's home in a big way to enhance the food and nutritional security of women and children. The programme is on in Dumbriguda Mandal.
New and improved varieties of millets are being introduced, machinery support for grinding millets is being provided and to make the preparations with millets palatable, new recipes are introduced, which are being liked by the children as well as adults. Laddus, payasam, kichidi and even dosa and jantikalu, made with different varieties of millets are finding takers. Two training programmes were held for the Girijan women for preparing the new recipes. Adding vegetables would make the millets recipes more interesting and also provide iron to the body.
“The project began from the base of the pyramid i.e., the indigenous knowledge about these crops, guided by the farmer-led research and simultaneously drawing support from the formal institutions”, said Dr. S. Kiran of Vikasa.
A study made when the programme for improving millet consumption among Girijans was launched, revealed that reasons like supply of rice at a subsidised price through the PDS; increase in the cultivation of improved paddy varieties and hybrids; poor productivity of the millets when compared to the other commercial crops leading to area under vegetables and other crops growing and millets area decreasing; decreasing interest among the Girijans about the consumption of millets for drop in millets consumption. Another main reason noticed was that the Girijan women were not willing to spend a lot of time on the laborious process of hand pounding and grinding of millets. Exchanging millets for paddy at the weekly shandies was a better option for them. “There is a great scope to improve millet consumption if the Girijan women are provided processing machines
Three improved varieties of finer millets and little millets were introduced to the farmers who were also being trained in better production practices and taken to millet research stations. Harvesting of millets is also made easy through de-hulling machines. Efforts are also on to create a millet-friendly policy environment involving the local people's representatives and conducting advocacy workshops leading to national level policy consultation, Dr. Kiran said. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org for other details of the programme.