Odisha’s Millet Story Is Now An International Sustainable Narrative
Odisha Millets Mission started in 2017 with an initial investment of Rs 60-65 crore per year, and has now increased to Rs 360 crore per year. The state government has allocated Rs 2,808 crore for the next six years. The idea is simply mainstreaming millet consumption, from daily household meals to international events like the recently concluded Hockey World Cup to partnering with corporate houses.
Manoj Kumar Mishra 27 Feb 2023 8:12 AM GMT
As Odisha basks in the glory of hosting yet another marquee sports event of 2023 i.e. Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup, fans and spectators relished the delicacies at Millet Shakti outlet in the Kalinga Stadium and the street-food mela offering millet delicacies on the sidelines.
On the International Year of Millets, Odisha also offered the players and officials millet meals. Apart from sports laurel, Odisha has also sent a message to the world about nutrition, climate resilience and empowerment. Led by the 1,500-odd women-led self-help groups (SHGs) of Odisha, carefully cultivated in the last six years under Odisha Millets Mission (OMM) under Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik’s watch, the small steps taken in 2017 is now a world narrative on this year.
What Odisha’s revolutionary farmers sowed in their crusade to revive their traditional food crop as well as protect the environment is a singular policy to tackle climate change, preserve the environment through sustainable farming, improve livelihood of farmers, and promote economic growth and health of the population. A success story now to emulate for the rest of India — or, for that matter, the world.
The millet-based cookies in multi-flavors, cakes, porridge mixes, pasta, rasagulla and gulab jamun have become a rage in upmarket Indian homes. The Millet Cafes set up in districts are now go-to places for young and old alike. Some entrepreneurial SHGs have set even fancier Millet Cafés to dish out even fancier stuff – from ragi chicken momo to ragi custard, foxtail fried rice and ragi chicken manchurian.
Also Read: Odisha to become the first Indian state to include millets, pulses, vegetables in mid day meals and ration scheme
All these stories are scripting plots for even bigger and better days for OMM, which started with the State government in 2017 with an initial investment of Rs 60-65 crore per year and has now increased to Rs 360 crore per year. The state government has allocated Rs 2,808 crore for the next six years. The idea is simply mainstreaming miller consumption, from daily household meals to international events like the recently concluded Hockey World Cup to partnering with corporate houses.
OMM has become the multi-pronged booster shot after it was launched by Odisha's Department of Agriculture and Farmers Empowerment (DA&FE) as a five-year exploratory programme in tribal areas to revive millets in farms and in people’s diet.
This programme has in a short span yielded more than it has sown, especially in terms of protecting the environment and fostering sustainable growth, which are together the main goals set by the United Nations to check climate change. OMM’s phenomenal success has spurred the state government to extend the project to 142 blocks in 2022, setting aside more than 75,000 hectares for millet farming by around 1.5 lakh farmers.
In September 2022, the state agriculture secretary wrote to secretaries of all departments to consider the inclusion of millet snacks in the official meetings of their departments, another boost to popularise the consumption of millet-based products among officials. This move is also aimed at facilitating the further economic opportunity for the Mission Shakti women self-help groups, trained under OMM to supply millet-based snacks to various departments. This is also expected to help in spreading awareness of millets and provide livelihood support to a host of people in the value chain.
Also Read: Gond and Baiga Tribe Women Help Revive Kodo-Kutki Millets in Madhya Pradesh
In 2021-22, the state government procured a sum of 3.23 lakh quintals of ragi from 41,286 farmers at a minimum support price of Rs 3,377 per quintal. During the current kharif marketing season, the government has set a target of procurement of 6 lakh quintals of Ragi at a Minimum Support Price. The government has included millets under PDS providing it at Rs 2 per kg to 50 lakh ration card beneficiaries for one month in 14 districts as a substitute for rice from the quantity procured during Kharif Marketing Season 2019-20.
When the world is struggling with the ravages of extreme weather like floods and droughts induced by climate change, it is imperative to ask at this point what is right to life without a clean, healthy environment to live in? We are part of this eco-system and any imbalance — man-made or natural — jeopardises our life as well as that of the generations to come. This is why the Odisha government has doubled the effort to maintain that balance and fix any gaps that may appear from unforeseen exigencies.
The impact has been great so far: Odisha has taken the lead in decarbonising the atmosphere through its Millets Mission. Millets are environment-friendly as they help cut atmospheric carbon dioxide and, thus, have a low carbon footprint. The millet farms are some of the firsts in the planet’s first lines of defense against climate change, absorbing man-made carbon emissions each year.
Millet has been part and parcel of the Indian diet for centuries and offers numerous health benefits. Recognising the benefits of millet, the Government of India has given a formal push to millet through Shree Anna Yojana during this year’s budget.
Also Read: Millets, the poor man's diet, are rich in many qualities
Odisha has taken an early lead in this aspect by setting up a dedicated mission to improve nutrition at the household level through the revival of millets in farms and on plates of tribal communities. The programme was budgeted for in the State Agriculture Budget of 2017 and since then it has scripted many success stories.
Odisha is the first state in the country to announce incentives to farmers for three years through Direct Transfer Benefits. Odisha also included Ragi laddu in ICDS as well as distributes millets through the PDS system.
Adding a proud chapter to Odisha Millet Mission, Odisha’s milletpreneurs sent the first commercial consignment to the international market which was facilitated by Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority. The consignment was procured from women managed farmer producer organisation (FPO).
AS OMM is looking to take Odisha’s millet to the world to please taste buds across the globe, it is scripting new success stories of nutrition, climate resilience, healthy diet and empowerment.
Manoj Kumar Mishra is IT Secretary, Government of Odisha. Views are personal.