They may be lesser known cereals but millets are extremely nutritious, climate-resilient and have been consumed for a very long time in India. And if reports are to be believed they are eventually making a comeback in our diets. While wheat and rice still continue to remain the most preferred cereals, consumption of Jowar, Bajra and Ragi (Millets family) are being promoted at many places across the country.
One of the States where millets are apparently replacing the conventional cereals is Odisha, where local administration and NGOs are playing an instrumental role in promoting the cereals.
The Odisha Government had launched Odisha Millets Mission (OMM) also known as the Special Programme for Promotion of Millets in tribal areas across 14 districts of the State in 2017 to revive millets in farms and on plates. The sole aim was to fight malnutrition by introducing millets in the public distribution system (PDS) and other state nutrition schemes.
For the implementation of project, women Self Help Groups (SHGs) were roped in for educating people on nutritious cooking and diet with a mobile kitchen model.
Eventually, Keonjhar became the first district in Odisha to introduce the locally cultivated ragi as a part of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) for the first time in Odisha and implement it under pre-school meal programme to bolster nutritional dietary intakes.
According to a report, 47 quintals of locally-grown ragi has been procured from farmers in Keonjhar to distribute ragi laddu mix to school students. In the month of September, as many as 86,293 pupils have benefited under the scheme.
The report added, there are 1990 farmers across 163 villages in Keonjhar district who are earning a livelihood through cultivation of millets. Through various initiatives, farmers are being trained in the district to revive millet farming. Following which, millet cultivation in the district has increased from 190 hectare in 2019 to 774 hectare in 2020.