Millet seeds, a strong weapon towards starvation

Subasa Mohanta isn’t any stranger to starvation. It has been a relentless within the lives of this 50-year-old farmer, her husband, and two kids.

Regardless of 16-hour days of back-breaking work as a farmhand, carting stone to a development website, she may nonetheless come house with out sufficient to eat.

However in 2018, a small bag of seeds helped Subasa to remodel her life.

Ms. Mohanta scattered the finger millet seeds — given to her by the Odisha Authorities as a part of a rural programme supported by the World Meals Programme (WFP) — within the fallow 0.6 hectares of land that circles her brick-and-mud home within the village of Goili in Mayurbhanj district.

In about two months, she harvested her first crop of mandia (the Odia phrase for ragi or finger millet). Subasa bought part of the about 500 kilograms she harvested at 40 rupees a kilo, saved a few of it to feed the hungry mouths at house, and distributed the remainder amongst family and friends. After which she sowed the seeds of change as soon as once more on her farmland.

Subasa Mohanta with a cycle weeder.

UN India/Anadi Charan Behera of Studio Priya, Bhubaneswar

Subasa Mohanta with a cycle weeder.

Mandia Maa, an emblem of hope

During the last three years, Subasa’s story of hope, confidence and empowerment has turn out to be intertwined with the genesis and progress of the Odisha Millets Mission (OMM), a flagship programme of the regional authorities’s Division of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment.

Her days are actually divided between farming her personal land, plus one other 3.2 hectares she has leased, and advising girls in Mayurbhanj and different districts of Odisha on the most effective practices of millet cultivation.

She additionally attends to native reporters who queue up for a glimpse of Mandia Maa, a moniker she has earned for her laborious work and willingness to strive a brand new crop when few others have been open to the concept.

Ragi, before and after processing.

UN India/Anadi Charan Behera of Studio Priya, Bhubaneswar

Ragi, earlier than and after processing.

Pancakes to well being drink

The finger millet didn’t simply change the fortune of the Mohantas, who’ve now diversified into rising different millets similar to suan (little millet) and sorghum. It additionally made a spot for itself of their weight loss program. From mandia kakara pitha (a type of pancake) to mandia malt (a well being drink to start out the day with), the household’s bowl of vitamin can be a part of the OMM’s journey to success.

The millet plant’s excessive tolerance of warmth (as much as 64 levels Celsius), drought and flood makes the crop an apparent alternative for farmers in an period of local weather change and depleting pure assets.

Millets require much less water than rice and wheat, the 2 staples of the Indian weight loss program. The short-season millets develop simply with out fertilisers, making them a more healthy and safer choice for each the buyer and the soil. The intercropping of millets with different crops can be useful for soil high quality: It helps maintain a verify on water run-off and aids soil conservation in erosion-prone areas.

“Aside from being a wealthy supply of vitamins and a climate-resilient crop, millet can diversify the meals system, help in resilience constructing and adaptation and improve livelihoods for small farmers, together with girls, nationally and regionally,” says Bishow Parajuli, WFP Consultant and Nation Director in India.

Self-help group memebers at bio-input unit.

UN India/Anadi Charan Behera of Studio Priya, Bhubaneswar

Self-help group memebers at bio-input unit.

Ladies to the fore

In Odisha, what started 4 years in the past with the handing out of leaflets, loudspeaker bulletins from vans and seed distribution amongst villagers by volunteers, neighborhood useful resource individuals and officers of the agriculture division has now blossomed right into a motion pushed by girls self-help teams.

Ladies, who’re nonetheless seen as principally post-harvest labour and keepers of seeds, have taken the lead in ragi processing, bettering yields of millets with bio-inputs, and likewise operating cafes and centres that serve millet-based dishes.

The standard jau (a porridge made with unpolished grain) — the most typical type of millet consumption in Odisha — now enjoys the corporate of different conventional dishes similar to bara, malpua, khaja and chakuli.

Not ‘the meals of the poor’

The seeds of change have taken root, however the way in which forward is just not freed from challenges.

Millets are nonetheless perceived as a meals of the poor and the underprivileged, a picture downside that must be tackled by promotions, social media campaigns, and consciousness messages from celebrities.

Millets wants the help of the city client to search out their rightful place on the shelf.

Whereas that shift could also be a couple of summers away, the ladies in Odisha’s villages and small cities are going about their millet work in full earnest. And lives are altering, grain by grain.

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