Our Approach & Ideology
With the passage of the National Food Security Act, and a host of other developments, the environment in which MINI must operate changes dramatically. Taking cognizance of these changes, the members of the Network gave themselves a new charter which would encapsulate the challenges and opportunities facing the Network in the days and months to come:
A Charter of Millets
Architect-ed by the Millet Network of India [MINI]
September 5, 2013
After half a decade of its struggle to put millets on the centre stage of India’s public food policy, the Millet Network of India reiterates its faith in millets as the future of India’s food and farming Buoyed by the success of its efforts to introduce millets into India’s Public Distribution System, the Millet Network of India rededicates itself to
- Enhance its campaign to bring millets into every single public food system in India, such as the school midday meals, ICDS and social welfare hostels, so that India’s children can access these nutritionally rich food for their physical and mental development.
- Create a heightened awareness in the Indian public and Indian media about the nutritional superiority of millets and therefore their increased consumption in order to erase the stigma of India being one of the most malnourished nations in the world.
- Instill the knowledge in the Indian policy makers and media that millets are the most climate compatible crops the country can depend upon in the coming decades of climate change so as to meet its goals of food and nutritional security.
In order to foreground the multifarious nutritional and ecological advantages offered by millets the Millet Network of India [MINI] resolves to:
- Deepen its engagement with the governments at the local, state and national level to exert greater pressure to implement on the ground, what has been enacted as a law in order to increase millet farming on the fields and farms of India and millet foods on the plates of rural and urban population of India.
- As a part of this quest, MINI will identify Millet Hotspots in India and document the uniqueness of millets grown and their farming practices in these hotspots in order to bring a sharper focus onto them. These documents will be circulated far and wide to sensitise policy makers all over India towards the existence of these hotspots and provide policy spaces for their conservation, enhancement and wider use.
- MINI will put its best efforts to remove the current perception that MNREGA has become an obstacle in smallholder farming and pushing Indian agriculture towards corporate farming. This stigmatisation of MNREGA, MINI believes can be easily erased by synchronising MNREGA with farming activities of millet farmers who are mainly composed of adivasis, dalits, women and marginal farmers and are essentially biodiverse farmers. MINI will engage with the governments in their respective states to formulate MNREGA application to cover the ploughing, weeding and harvesting activities of these vulnerable farmers to make their farming viable so that they richly contribute to India’s food and nutritional security and international commitment to agricultural biodiversity. MINI believes that MNREGA has the potential to become the backbone of India’s smallholder agriculture and promote a vibrant rural life and therefore will strive to make this possibility come true.
- In order to make the agricultural establishments, universities and research institutions acquire a heightened awareness about the biodiverse and ecological millet farming Millet Network of India will take a close look at all the programmes at the state and national levels, university research initiatives and will make efforts to put millet anchored biodiverse farming at the centre of these programmes. In particular we emphasise programmes such as ATMA [Agricultural Technology Management Agency] of the ICAR to embrace traditional millets cultivation and its strengths as a sterling example for combating issues of climate change, food and nutritional security issues, thereby providing millet farmers their long due recognition. In fact MINI advocates that millets should be the centre piece of ATMA.
- While carving out space for millets on the national and policy landscapes, the Millet Network of India will not neglect the community level actions which will be the cornerstones of millet farming. The topmost community action that MINI will initiate with utmost vigour will be the establishment of community banks of traditional seeds particularly millets and the crops of their family. These seed banks will become community beacons of food sovereignty and liberate small farmers from being enslaved by increasingly monopolistic seed businesses. Thus MINI will, through the establishment of hundreds of community seed banks, across India, extend the definition of millets to mean liberating diversity and farmer sovereignty
- Working with media will be a major engagement of MINI in the coming years. We believe that modern urban food culture is basically a media construct and therefore media has the power and therefore responsibility to build proper food information among India’s urban population. Therefore MINI will strive to assertively and continuously bring to media’s attention the enormous contribution millets can make to India’s food, nutrition and farming landscape. Such an effort would aim to help media to move beyond the “foodie” framework of their stories and recognise the versatility of millets as cuisines, farming miracles, climate change complants, biodiversity anchors and such other multiple strengths they are embedded with. These aspects of millet foods and farming must be amplified by media in a regular fashion so that a new dawn in Indiian food and farming scene is brought about and a new transformative thinking in the food-media interface becomes a reality.
- On the same logic, Millet Network of India will also become the foremost champion of agrobiodiversity in India. The network would desist from blindly advocating millet cultivation unless they are a part of a traditional biodiverse farming system which is a hallmark of the ecological knowledge of the millet communities of the country. MINI will spread awareness about how millet anchored biodiverse farming can be the lifeline for the food and nutritional security of the country in view of the fact that while millets by themselves are rich storehouses of nutrition, the farming system they represent consisting of millet companion crops that include a host of pulses and oilseeds, together can fully complete the nutritional needs of the Indian poor.
- MINI would also engage in a relentless argument with the government to provide millet farmers a “scientific” price that takes into account not only the cost of raising millet farms but also the contribution it makes towards conservation of water, biodiversity, generation of livelihoods, reclamation of poor soils and their regeneration. Thus millets are the best farming answer to the coming decades of climate crisis and therefore need to be considered for a string of bonuses beyond the MSP offered by the governments across the country. MINI will knit all these factors together to construct a strong articulation for a good price for millet farmers.
- While MINI will continue its focus on millets as the future of food and farming, it would also like to recognise that like millets there are many other local crops such as upland rice, desi maize and such other grains have been totally marginalised and oppressed. Thus MINI will support and fight for the right of the entire gamut of oppressed and marginalised food crops to get their well deserved primacy in the public food systems of India.
- At the level of the Network, we resolve to strive for the establishment of Regional Secretariats. We will strive to spearhead the millet-argument in our respective regions/states, and bring together other food-rights activists to articulate a vision for reviving millet-based biodiverse farming, that is unique to our region/state. Such Regional Secretariats will architect a region-specific agenda for millets.
- We will work closely with farming communities in our respective regions in order to generate specific indicators that will help in grounding community-level monitoring mechanisms.
This charter is a product of a two day discussion among the members of the Millet Network of India who gathered in the village of Pastapur in Medak District of Andhra Pradesh, India on September 4 & 5, 2013.