“It was a year that took me to great heights of happiness when India passed a brand new Act called National Food Security Act which for the first time in our history recognised millets as food security grains of the country and put them firmly in India’s Public Food system”, wrote P. V. Satheesh, from Pastapur village, about 100km from Hyderabad, on the Deccan Plateau in Andhra Pradesh.
The challenge now, says Satheesh, is to start a process of decentralised procurement of food grains to ensure small farmers benefit from this change. They don’t want to see supply of millets captured by corporations that become the sole contractors for supplying millets to government granaries.
As a start they have been invited to begin a pilot in decentralised procurement and distribution by the government in the southern state of Karnataka in two districts where Ragi and Jowar are popular millets. Hopefully, next year, this pilot will be declared successful and be the beginning of a decentralised, localised food system for India in which the poorest farmers will benefit most.
In 2013, the Africa – India Millet Network was set up. It will build on the work of the Millet Network of India (MINI), which has worked for a decade to bring millets into India’s public food system, ending the exclusive focus on rice and wheat.
Read more on Geoff Tansey’s website: Millets join India’s public distribution system and new India-Africa links are born
Two months later on this website we recalled earlier news from Devinder Sharma (2010) about the a seed bank of traditional millet strains created by Ishwarappa Bankar at his home in Hire Yadachi village of Haveri district in Karnataka. Banakar has collected 25 varieties of jowar, 30 of finger millet, 10 of foxtail millet, 5 varieties of little millet and 2 varieties each of kodo millet, proso millet and pearl millet. Devinder added an extract from a report in the Daily Pioneer, but the direct link no longer works:
With the introduction of commercial crops like paddy and wheat, farmers forgot about millets. Ishwarappa, like other farmers, took to growing commercial crops. Every time there was a drought or a flood, he incurred losses. But last year, when went to an organic fair in Pune where he saw many varieties of traditional crops and organic farming methods. Vijay Jardhari, a farmer from the Dehradun region exhibited more than 100 varieties of beans and many types of vegetables of his region. Inspired by Jardhari’s efforts on conservation of local seeds, Ishwarappa decided to grow traditional crops and created the first millet seed bank set up by an individual farmer in the state.
Sharma’s verdict: “This is certainly a remarkable initiative. If other farmers replicate what Banakar has been able to achieve, we would be able to recover quite a lot of the lost plant germplasm”. He also appreciates the National Food Security Act’s recognition of millets as food security grains of the country and their inclusion in India’s Public Food Distribution system.