Millets and Wellness—To be or not to be!!
(Dr. K.M. George—Secretary General of Global Millets Foundation; Email—melmana@ gmail.com; WhatsApp—919947670887)
(Keynote Address at the National Seminar on Millets held on 11th August at UC College, Alwaye, Kerala—India)
- The year 2023 is the IYOM as declared by the UN—FAO–
- Focus today is to sensitize students and young researchers to understand the potential of millets as super food and its role in promoting the SDG2,12&13.
Sustainable Development Goal 2 is about creating a world free of hunger by 2030. In 2020, between 720 million and 811 million persons worldwide were suffering from hunger, roughly 161 million more than in 2019. Also in 2020, a staggering 2.4 billion people, or above 30 per cent of the world’s population, were moderately or severely food-insecure, lacking regular access to adequate food. The figure increased by nearly 320 million people in just one year. Globally, 149.2 million children under 5 years of age, or 22.0 per cent, were suffering from stunting (low height for their age) in 2020, a decrease from 24.4 per cent in 2015.
Goal 12 is about ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns, which is key to sustain the livelihoods of current and future generations. Unsustainable patterns of consumption and production are root causes of the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
SDG 13 seeks to achieve a climate-neutral world by mid-century and to limit global warming to well below 2°C — with an aim of 1.5°C — compared with pre-industrial times. It aims to strengthen countries’ climate resilience and adaptive capacity, with a special focus on supporting least-developed countries.
Having seen the bigger canvas of the SDGs relevant to the Millets revolution, now let us examine the crux of millets vis a vis wellness.
There are some 800 million people malnourished globally and India accounts for some 200 million or 25 percent.
Millets are very small and tiny grains from grass. As students of Botany, you are well aware of its taxonomy–genera , specious etc. In India it was grown some 5000 years ago. Now it is grown in 130 countries.
It is staple diet for 500 million people in Africa and Asia.
India produces some 20 million tonnes of millets annually while the world production is estimated at 40 million tonnes.
Major millets growing nations are India, Nigeria, Niger, China, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Chad and Senegal.
Major millets grown in India are Jowar ( Sorghum),Bajara ( Pearl ) and Ragi ( Finger ).
Names in Malayalam:
Little Millets—Chama; Foxtail Millets—Tina; Kodo Millets—Varagu;PearlIllets—Bajara; Jowar millets—Manicholam; Barnyard Millets—Kuthriavali.
Fox tail ( Tina);Kodo(Varagu);Barnyard( Kuthiravali);Little Millets ( Chama)& Brown Top ( American Millets).
Health Benefits of Millets:
There are five must be consumed Millets owning wellness reasons:
- Fox tail millets—Tina—It is a nerve tonic-It is most balanced of all millets.
- Little millets—Chama-Has the unique ability to cleanse the reproductive organs.
- Kodo millets-Varagu—cleanses the born marrow. It can even address anaemia and low platelet count.
- Barnyard—Kuthiravali—it cleanses the kidney, urinary bladder and beefs up liver function.
- Brown top millets—American millets—It can helps healing of alimentary canal for constipation, gastric ulcers, piles etc.
Suggested Consumption pattern of millets:
If you are looking at Millets to address Diabetics/BP and Cholesterol
Little millets twice a week; Kodo twice a week and Barnyard, Fox tail and brown top.
For stomach ailments:
Use foxtail, Brown top, Barnyard, Kodo and Little millets—twice a week.
For better immunity
Use Brown top—Barnyard—Little—Fox tail—Kodo millets
After having discussed the wellness part of millets, I draw your attention to the challenges faced in the areas of production, processing, consumption, R&D, distribution at affordable process to all. Again, millets for senior citizens is another area demanding policy attention. Geriatric areas and millets must attract research attention coupled with policy focus.
Challenges Faced by Millets Production, Processing etc:
1)Productivity of millets is low compared to wheat or rice. The major problem faced by farmers is of weeds. Good farming practise —System of Millet Intensification ( SMI) if adopted, yields would go up. Use of improved varieties of seeds is another challenge.
2) There is decline in the area under millets. ( From 1960s to 2022—a decline of 50%).
3) Millets are generally less prone to pests and diseases. But the timely sowing is very critical to ward of losses due to pests and the vagaries of the weather.
4) Millets Seed Production is another grey area. Quality millet seeds is a necessary precondition to make the IYOM a success story in the ground level. The Indian Institute of Millets Research (ICAR-IIMR) located at Rajendranagar (Hyderabad, Telangana, India) is called upon to take up the challenges faced by the farmers fairly and squarely.
- Millet grains differ in size, shape, and husk. As such it becomes very difficult to handle it easily. Barnyard and Kodo millets contain multiple seed coats. It needs double stage dueller to remove the husk. The machines available in India have low recovery of 70 to 80 percent. It is another challenge for the IIMR.
- Another area demanding research attention is to increase the shelf life of processed millets grains. Today it is around 4 to 6 months only. If we aim at export markets, it must be with at least 12 months shelf life. IIMR must accord top priority to this critical area also.
- Millets are highly nutritious, gluten free with low glycaemic index. They are rich in fibre, protein, minerals, and anti oxidants. They are indeed valuable for a healthy diet.
The future beckons, shall we falter!!!