What if there was a crop that does not need pesticides or fertilizers or large amounts of water to grow, is packed with nutrients, and helps fight climate change? Sounds too good to be true? Turns out, such a crop does exist! One of the oldest groups of crops to be cultivated; millets are hardy plants found in a variety of habitats from Africa to India and China.
Here are some of the reasons we should consider making millets a part of our diet:
Millets are high in minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium as well as vitamins. Raagi (finger millet) has an amazing 344mg of calcium per 100g. That’s thrice as much as milk and 10 times as much as rice!
High Fibre – All millets have at least 5 times the amount of fibre as rice. Barnyard millet has 50 times as much!
Low Glycemic Index – Millets contain complex carbohydrates that digest slowly and release sugar slowly into the bloodstream. They are an ideal diet choice for diabetics and those at risk of metabolic disorders.
No chemicals in food! – Millets don’t need chemical pesticides to grow as their seed coats are strong and deter most insects.
Biodiversity – A millet farm has several other crops such as groundnut, horse gram and lentil planted within it. Combined with the fact that no pesticides are used, such a farm becomes a thriving ecosystem.
Drought resistance – Millets can grow without irrigation. If a 1-acre field of rice were replaced by millets, it would save more than 6 million litres of water a year!
No fertilizers needed – Millets can grow in poor quality soils, turning hitherto uncultivable land into productive farms. Together with their companion crops, millets enrich and build the soil. Less demand for fertilizers also helps aquatic habitats and discourages polluting industries.
For the Farmer – Multi crop farms are a natural insurance against not only pests, but unpredictable weather and market pricing as well. If one crop fails, the farmer has others to use for food and to sell. Millet farms being inherently bio-diverse provide much needed security to the farmer.
For everyone else – Since they can survive harsh conditions and drought, millets are an excellent food to rely on, at the national level as well as the personal.
Climate Change Resilience
Malnutrition – As climate change worsens the living conditions of the poor, millets can provide much needed nutrients at very low costs.
Heat resistance – Millets can handle higher temperatures and are thus resilient to global warming.
Water stress – Changing weather patterns make rainfall unreliable. Millets are ideal to this scenario with their low water consumption.
Evidently, millets deserve the title of a Super crop, capable of tackling a host of problems from human malnutrition to ecological degradation.
What can you do?
Learn to cook with millets! – It's easy, and everything we cook with rice and wheat can be made with millets. Check out some of these versatile recipes for everything from tasty sweet malt and porridge, to idli and rice dishes.
Talk to your elders – Learn to make millet roti from your grandmother! Visit a traditional millet farm and talk to an old farmer. Connecting with elders is a powerful way to find perspective on global and ecological issues.
Push for including millets in the Public Distribution System – Depending only on rice and wheat have resulted in major crop loss and crippling malnutrition. Let’s change the picture!
Buy millets from locals and farmers – Chuck the fancy plastic packs and go for wholesale weekly bazaars. Visit a nearby village if you can’t find one in town.