October 29, 2017

Millets - The personal and social change that millets can bringout

Kicking the rice-habit:

Idlies and Masala Dosas have today become the very identity with South India itself. But not many would realize that some 30-40 years or one generation back, Rice was not the predominant food ingredient of South India. It was Millets which was the staple food of the masses. The food habits have changed that not many people, both in villages and cities, can cook a good millet based meal. The drastic increase in rice production after the Green Revolution, dams construction, fertilizers, new agricultural production and irrigation methods have made rice easy to produce. These changes have also bought rice within affordance of the masses as well.

However, recently we are noticing huge drawbacks of rice based diet. On the personal level, rice based diet has widely identified as a reason for increase in diabetics onset, even at very early ages. On the social level, large rice cultivation which needs very high water content (4,000 to 5600 litres per kg of rice while a person's water needs are just 1000 litres per month) is taking its toll of the country's water resources, leading to social agitation across states. For the farmers, rice cultivation is not profitable leading to debts for the fertilizers and other inputs like electric power. Hence the overall impact of heavy indulgence in rice diet is a loss-loss game for everyone in the society.

Krishna Byre Gowda - The Millet Man

 Mr. Krishna Byre Gowda 

Mr. Krishna Byre Gowda, the present agricultural minister of Karnataka and a true visionary leader, has come up with a simple solution for the above crisis. This simple solution is to decrease the rice intake of our people by making them adopt more millet based meals per month. Today everyone knows that millets are nutricereals having low glutonic index as it reduces and releases sugar slower than rice. It is rich in fiber, iron, calcium and micro-nutrients.

Mr. Gowda notes that for most of the previous generation of South Indians, idlis were festival sweets for Diwali while millets were the daily foods. Yet it is surprising that even when people know that millet is good, they are not consuming it adequately. Even the Organic Foods activists have been very vocal about their support for Millets. What are the reasons for this?

Oats, Quinoa and other imported ingredients are being projected as super foods and heavily advertised in mass media like TVs and Newspapers. Many People have started to have them as alternates for rice and wheat as the mass media have shaped the social perception that it is "fashionable" to have Oats or Quinoa through advertisements. People are not able to realize that millets are better than these imported alternatives which are also not good for the economy as it affects livelihoods of farmers as well. 

a. Brand New Image and Initiatives for Millets


New Brand Muscats for Millets 
As the agriculture minister of Karnataka, which had been the Millet Granary of India, Mr. Krishna Byre Gowda wants to make people comeback to millets in a big way. His Innovative approach is to create a new Brand Image for millets as the "Smart Food of the 21st Century" as Millets are not only good at personal level, millets are also good for the entire Ecology by consuming less resources, no chemical fertilizers, drought resistant and global climate friendly - the key concern for everyone in the world feating global climate change. Mr. Gowda has create initiatives like new brand-icons that speak today's consumerist cultural language to the kids and adults.

b. Farmer Cooperatives 

He had initiated the formation of Farmer Cooperatives which enables farmers to group together as collectives so that they can bargain a better price for themselves. Organic Entrepreneurs who have been struggling to source millets are now able to get better prices and offer the millets at lower rates to their consumers.
As the farmers are getting better and are beginning to cultivate more, the area under millet cultivation has started to increase. When it is increased further, the farmers dependency on water and fertilizers can decrease along with their debt burden.

c. Events and Trade-Shows

In order to increase the market for millets, Mr. Gowda is now taking newer and bigger initiatives like media events and trade-shows. Karnataka Agriculture Ministry had conducted a big event for promoting millets by combining with organic foods in Bangalore during last year and it has been a big success attracting thousands of people. This year, he wants to make the event even bigger. The upcoming Event in January 2018 is set to be an international event where large national and international businesses are also set to participate. This event will be very helpful for entrepreneurs in organic sector as they will be able to meet both the B2B players and consumers in the same venue.

d. Millet Startups and Ecosystem to make millet a world-superfood


The Karnataka Government is now planning to encourage Startups in the Millets Growing space by creating a Startup Program so that the Millet Ecosystem grows. Mr. Gowda's mission is to make millets a world superfood and also make Karnataka and India exports tons of millets to the world as only India is ideal for Millet cultivation.

Call for Food Bloggers, Activists and Social Media Influencers :

I met Mr. Gowda in a Conference and Blogger meet organized by the Karnataka Agriculture Ministry in Taj Coromandel, Chennai. Social Media and Food Bloggers have a very role in making millets a world superfood. Food Bloggers should use the power of social media to spread the awareness on Millets and ensure that people start actually consuming it a few meals a week instead of just taking it as a fancy food once in a while. Food Bloggers need to create a few killer millet recipes, the equivalent of idlis and dosas through fusion of regional, national and international cuisines and create tasty new recipes which are complete re-imagination of Millet recipes which kids and elders are addicted to.

As Food Bloggers, we should be definitely participating in the Bangalore Millets and Organic Foods Event and make valuable contributions for the cause of Millets.

Click HERE for my 50+ Millet Recipes.


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