Could one of India’s most ancient grains play a big part in the country’s future? Millets are among the earliest known cultivated cereals and, used to make porridge, ground into flour for flatbreads or fermented into beer, have been an important element in the diets of India’s rural population for thousands of years.
During the Green Revolution of the 1960s, India saw an influx of technology, chemicals and high-yield seeds to support water-guzzling monocultures. It consequently lost many of the traditional crop varieties long adapted to its regions, climates and cultures. As the government pushed rice and wheat production, the farming and consumption of millets fell drastically along with their status. Increasingly relegated to use as animal fodder or for food processing, they were deemed the ‘poor man’s grain’.
A network started from the ground
Slow Food and the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty have recognized the need for a revival of this wonder grain by launching a network of indigenous millet producers across the country. The Millet Network project aims to facilitate the exchange of knowledge among farmers about cultivation, processing and value adding, and hence create the support that a network provides. The network was created through the initiative of several delegates at Indigneous Terra Made held in 2011, who highlighted the importance of this crop for local populations given its high nutritional value. Once back in their home country, the delegates stayed in contact and the network thus came to life.
At Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto in Turin in October 2012, a visual representation of the Millet Network project will be presented at the Asia-Oceania space. Also in the same space visitors can admire a large display that illustrates the biodiversity of the continent, with hundreds of variety of rice, spices, tubers and millet.
Extract taken from article to be published in the next Slow Food Almanac 2012.