The project involves increasing minor millet production, processing and value addition in villages, and developing or encouraging women entrepreneurs.

The University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad has been selected to lead a national project to strengthen regional staple food grains. The University along with the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund has selected minor millet for ensuring food security in villages.

Haveri in Karnataka, Namakal in Tamil Nadu, Koraput in Odisha and Rudraprayag in Uttaranchal have been selected for the project. The project will enhance production, processing and value addition of regional staple food grains.

Small millets

The Research Fund will provide to the tune of CAN$9,95,000 (Rs 4 crore). It has selected McGill University, Canada, to provide technical support and the University will play the anchor role in India. The Dharwad University has roped in two NGOs — Chennai-based M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation and Dehradun-based Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation.

About six species of small millets are growing in the country on 2 million hectares mostly in fragile agricultural regions. “In order to address food security issues at local village level, project has three components: 1) to address minor millet production; 2) processing and value addition at local village level; and 3) to develop or encourage dedicated women entrepreneurs through self-help groups,” Nirmala B. Yenagi, Professor and Head, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, College of Rural Home Science at the Dharwad University said.

Area of cultivation

The project is aiming to bring in mechanisation which is low cost and applicable at the village level such as flour-making or roti-making or other value-added products using millets.

Prior to the Green Revolution, pearl millet, sorghum and six small millets (finger millet, little millet, Italian millet, barnyard millet, proso millet and kodo millet) used to occupy 39 per cent of the producing area and contributed 30 per cent of the grain produced in the country. Their cultivation has today declined to 18 per cent of the total food-grain-producing area with their share in the national grain pool shrinking to 15.5 per cent. “The millet is one of the cheapest and easily accessible to poor, the reduction in millet production has a phenomenal impact on the grain diversity in the rural food basket and the food and nutritional security of the rural poor, particularly in agriculturally fragile regions,” Yenagi pointed out.

anil.u@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on September 24, 2012)
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