What is Millet?
Millet is a type of cereal grain that is commonly grown in warm and dry regions around the world. It is a small, round grain that is highly nutritious and has been a staple food in many cultures for thousands of years.
There are several different types of millet, including pearl millet, finger millet, foxtail millet, sorghum, kodo millet etc…
Millet is gluten-free and a good source of protein, fiber, and minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. It can be used in a variety of dishes, such as porridges, bread, and even alcoholic beverages.
Millet is also an important crop for small farmers in many developing countries, where it is often grown in dry areas with poor soil conditions. It is known for its resilience to drought and can provide food security in areas where other crops may struggle to grow.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets. Millets have a high nutritional value due to their protein, dietary fiber, micronutrients, and antioxidants, and are also suitable for cultivation in semi-arid regions due to their drought-resistant agronomic characteristics.
India grows two groups of millets:- major millets such as sorghum, pearl millet, and finger millet, and minor millets like foxtail, little millet, kodo, proso, and barnyard millet. India’s Millet Revolution is a movement that seeks to increase awareness of the health and environmental benefits of millets, promote traditional agricultural practices, and support small-scale farmers. This revolution is seen as a solution to the country’s dual challenges of improving public health and promoting sustainable agriculture.
Benefits of millets
Millets are highly nutritious and offer several health benefits. Some of the benefits of millets include:
- High in nutrients: Millets are rich in protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are also low in fat and have a low glycemic index, making them an ideal food for weight management.
- Good for digestion: Millets are rich in fiber, which helps in maintaining healthy digestion and preventing constipation. They also contain prebiotics that promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
- Gluten-free: Millets are naturally gluten-free, making them an ideal food for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
- Reduce the risk of chronic diseases: Millets contain antioxidants and other nutrients that help in reducing the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
- Drought-resistant: Millets can be grown in semi-arid regions with poor soil conditions and require less water than other crops, making them an ideal crop for small farmers and areas facing water scarcity.
- Sustainable and environmentally friendly: Millets require fewer inputs like fertilizers and pesticides, making them a sustainable and environmentally friendly crop.
Growing condition / How to grow
Growing millets is relatively simple and can be done in a few easy steps. Here’s how to grow millets:
- Choose the right location: Millets prefer warm and dry climates and can be grown in a variety of soil types. However, they do best in well-draining soils with a pH range of 5.5 to 7.5.
- Prepare the soil: Before planting millets, prepare the soil by removing any weeds, rocks, or debris. Add organic matter like compost or manure to the soil to improve its fertility.
- Plant the seeds: Millets can be planted directly in the soil, or they can be started indoors and then transplanted outside. Plant the seeds at a depth of about 2-3 cm and space them out about 10-15 cm apart.
- Water the plants: Millets are drought-resistant but still require regular watering. Water the plants regularly, especially during the first few weeks after planting, to help establish strong roots.
- Fertilize the plants: Millets require minimal fertilization, but adding a small amount of nitrogen-rich fertilizer during the growing season can help improve yields.
- Harvest the millets: Millets are ready to be harvested when the seeds have turned brown and are hard to the touch. Cut the stalks close to the ground and thresh the seeds to remove them from the chaff.
Govt of India’s initiatives to revive millets
The Government of India has taken several initiatives to promote the production and consumption of millets in the country. Here are some of the key initiatives:
- National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA): The NMSA has been launched by the Government of India in 2007 to promote the cultivation of millets and other crops that are suited to the local agro-climatic conditions.
- National Food Security Mission (NFSM): The NFSM 2007 has a special focus on millets and aims to increase the production and productivity of these crops through various interventions such as seed distribution, training of farmers, and demonstration plots.
- Millet Village Scheme: Under this scheme, the Government of India is promoting the production of millets in selected villages across the country. The scheme provides support for seed distribution, training, and marketing of millet-based products.
- Promotion of Millets in the Public Distribution System (PDS): The Government of India has included millets in the PDS in some states. This move is aimed at improving the nutrition status of the population and supporting small-scale millet farmers.
- Millet Processing and Value Addition: The Government of India is supporting the establishment of millet processing units to promote value addition and marketing of millet-based products. This initiative is aimed at increasing the income of small-scale farmers and promoting the consumption of millets among urban consumers.
These initiatives have helped to raise awareness about the benefits of millets and promote their production and consumption in the country.
Where are millets grown in India?
Millets are grown in various parts of India, especially in the arid and semi-arid regions. Some of the major millet-growing states in India include:
- Tamil Nadu
- Andhra Pradesh
- Uttar Pradesh
Sorghum, pearl millet, and finger millet are the major millets grown in India, while foxtail, little millet, kodo, proso, and barnyard millet are the minor millets grown in the country. Millets are an important part of the diet in several regions of India and are used to make a variety of traditional dishes. With the growing awareness of the health benefits of millets, there has been renewed interest in these crops, and efforts are being made to promote their production and consumption in the country.
Which countries in the world grow millets?
Millet is grown in many countries across the world, particularly in Africa and Asia. Some of the top millet-producing countries in the world include:
- Burkina Faso
In addition to these countries, millet is also grown in several other countries including Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, Tanzania, Kenya, and Madagascar in Africa, and in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar in Asia. Millet is an important crop for food security and livelihoods in many of these countries, particularly in the dryland regions where other crops may not thrive due to the harsh climatic conditions.