Agri Business

For 20 years, an annual festival of millets showcases the ‘old crops’

KV Kurmanath Zaheerabad (Telangana) | Updated on January 16, 2019 Published on January 16, 2019

Bullock carts display millets at the Mobile Biodiversity Festival by Deccan Development Society, in Sangareddy District   -  THE HINDU

‘Millet farmers too need government support’

On a late winter morning, about 300 women farmers gathered at an agricultural field at Arjun Naik Thanda, a lambada hamlet near here, to celebrate ‘old crops’ or millets. After a brief meeting, they joined a rally of ten bullock carts, decorated with traditional art.

With seed samples of over 20 varieties of millets in glass showcases displayed on either side of each cart, the convoy starts on a month-long tour of villages.

Beginning on the day of Sankranti, which marks the arrival of fresh harvested crops, activists will take the carts to about 30 ‘millet’ villages.

“After the convoy completes its trip to a village, farmers from the next village on the schedule will come with their oxen to carry the carts to their village. The idea is to spread the word and celebrate the success stories of millets,” a farmer, manning a cart told BusinessLine.

Visitors from France and the United States too joined the inaugural day to study a model farm.

The four-acre plot witnesses a beehive of activity, with the family members of the women farmers displaying millet farming techniques, locally developed grain processing machines, branded ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat millet foods. A bus-load of consumers, who have just begun to consume millets, joined them from Hyderabad to have a feel of how the crops are grown.

The annual festival of ‘old crops’, which is into its 20th edition this year, is aimed at celebrating the revival of crops that are natural to dryland agriculture.

“We don’t buy seeds. We don’t buy any inputs. We source all off them among ourselves. We save our seeds not only for the subsequent season but for a couple of more seasons,” said Anjamma, a 60-year-old millet farmer.

Relating her experience over the last 30 years in growing millets, Anjamma says they don’t believe in depleting the land of its vital resources.

With three national awards to her credit, Anjamma belongs to the seed bank team of Deccan Development Society (DDS), which is promoting an ecosystem for millet farming in the area.

Satyanarayana Raju, who is promoting a farmer-consumer network called Beyond Organic in Hyderabad, said he came here with a group of consumers that have invested in about 100 farmers.

What the farmers need is support from the Government. “You see dozens of procurement centres for cotton but there is none for millets. Millet farmers need support,” PV Satheesh, Director of DDS, said.

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Published on January 16, 2019
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