India has sent a proposal to the United Nations, urging the global body to declare 2018 as International Year of Millets in an effort to raise awareness about the important staple across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
“Promotion of production and consumption of millets through conscious efforts at global level is likely to contribute substantially in the fight against targeted hunger and mitigate the effect of climate change in long run. Popularising millets would benefit future generations of farmers as well as consumers,” a government statement said.
Millet is a common term to categorise small-seeded grasses that are often termed nutri-cereals or dryland-cereals, and includes sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, kodo millet and other millets.
An important staple cereal crop for millions of small holder dry-land farmers across sub-saharan Africa and Asia, millets offer nutrition, resilience, income and livelihood for farmers even in difficult times. They have multiple untapped uses such as food, feed, fodder, biofuels and brewing, the statement said.
Nutritionally superior to wheat & rice owing to their higher levels of protein with more balanced amino acid profile, crude fibre & minerals such as iron, zinc, and phosphorous, millets can provide nutritional security and act as a shield against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women, it added.
Millets are also known to help tackle health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and lifestyle problems as they are gluten free, have a low glycemic index and are high in dietary fibre and antioxidants.
Adapted to low or no purchased inputs and to harsh environment of the semi-arid tropics, they are the backbone for dry land agriculture, and are often the last crop standing in times of climate change.