“Indian Women Turn to Ancient Grains to Feed Their Families and Their Futures”
by Anne Pinto-Rodrigues
Yes! Magazine, November 26, 2020
Pitch: Food security for rural Indian communities via millets
India is seeing a grassroots revival of traditional grains, mainly millets, which were once a staple of rural communities in the rainfed (non-irrigated) areas of the country. Millets farming was replaced by industrial-scale rice and wheat farming in the 1960s/70s. Being rich in proteins, minerals and micronutrients, millets are viewed as a tool to fight malnutrition. They are also a climate-resilient crop, which enables the poor and marginalized farming communities to withstand the vagaries of weather. Furthermore, as a high percentage of farmers in India are women, millet farming is viewed as a way to empower women. In the south Indian state of Telengana, over 5,000 marginalized Dalit (the lowest tier of the caste system) women farmers of the Deccan Development Society (DDS), have brought over 10,000 acres of degraded agricultural land under millet cultivation using natural / traditional farming techniques (multicropping, cow dung as manure, insect chasers etc). This has increased their grain output multiple times, ensuring (1) soil, (2) food, (3) nutrition, and (4) fodder security for their communities. In several states, women-led grassroot nonprofits are spearheading the millet revival movement.
Earlier this year, I wrote about one small community in rural India that is working on reviving millet farming. More recently, I wrote a pan-India piece on the same subject, for CS Monitor. In several states, women-led grassroot nonprofits are spearheading the millet revival movement (as highlighted in both my articles).
For my CS Monitor piece, I interviewed one non-profit (Women’s Collective), one social enterprise and one for-profit organization. For the Yes! Magazine piece, I could interview a different non-profit (DDS), one state authority that has been active in promoting millets as well as agriculture / climate scientists. The article could also look at the challenges faced at these varying levels.
I strongly believe this story has global relevance as every country is rethinking its food systems in the midst of this pandemic, and is looking to be prepared for climate variations in the years to come.
I eagerly await your thoughts on this.
(she / her)