Dialogues with Parliamentarians
The members from MINI had submitted a memorandum to Hon’ble Chief Minister and Agriculture Minister of A.P, with well defined demands to bring millet in the Public food distribution programmes. The specific demands in the memorandum were: (a) persuade the Government of India to provide millets high priority in the National Food Security Act; (b) put millets into public food systems; (c) recognise millets as Climate Change Compliant Crops and promote their cultivation and consumption (and announce special focus and encouragement to dryland farmers through Biodiversity bonus, Water conservation bonus, and Climate change bonus); (d) implement Millet Based National Rural Employment Guaranty Programme; (e) convert Cultivable Fallows into millet farms. The facts were highlighted, and the interests of small and marginal farmers were brought out in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
This primarily involved sensitizing and following-up with both print and electronic media groups for articles and news programmes on Millets and the need for a larger policy emphasis on the same.
a. Firstly, this was done though contacts made with reports/editors in Lok Sabha TV, News X TV, CNN-IBN, NDTV Deccan Chronicle, Business Standard, Hard News, Down to Earth, Times of India, Civil Society, Chauthi Duniya, Outlook, Frontline, Swagat, Loksatta, Indian Express and several others.
b. The need to link nutritionist’s columns in newspapers to put across the message to highlight the connection between lifestyle, food and health was taken up. The significance to contact and sensitize eminent people from media such as Ms. Shalini Arun, the Hindu, Mr. Paranjoy Guha Thakurda, Mr. P. Sainath others to profile millets in such nutritionist columns were communicated and contacted.
c. On October 2009, while the campaign work proceed in the States, on 15th and 16th on October, in celebrating the World Food Day, the DDS women’s sangham in collaboration with MINI and Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) organised a media sensitisation event called “Community Sovereignty” on the occasion the First Anniversary of the Sangham Radio. Several media groups from Delhi were present on this occasion dozens of reports were published in the Press, TV and radio channels Nationwide.
Food Rights Campaigners and NAC
Consultation with members of other Food Security Networks such as Right to Food, and other group lobbying on National legislation for food and farming were also made. as Dr. NC Saxena, Mr. Harsh Mander, Mr. Jean Drez from RTF Campaign who are also part of the National Advisory Council (NAC) on Food Security. Other members of NAC interacted with were Prof Narendra Jadhav, Prof Pramod Tandon, Ms. Aruna Roy, Dr. A.K. Shiva Kumar, Ms Anu Aga, Ms. Farah Naqvi and Ms. Mirai Chatterjee.
Harmonizing the debates with Right to Food Campaigners and
Food Entitlements Bill of RTFC
Food security being a prime issue across the country there are several forums, but the significance of Right to Food Campaign in grounding the policy debate on food security is critical. The agenda of MINI has been to bring out people arguments on food and nutrition and since September 2009, starting with the National Consultation on Food Rights, the issues of enabling food production alongside a support for locally suitable food distribution system that provided easy access to food is important, is being put forth and strengthened. MINI, in partnering with the RTF Campaign, the arguments integral to ‘Concept of Millets’ that are integral are:
(a) that green revolution policies need to be reversed and food security and food sovereignty be realized through revival of traditional no-industrial agriculture;
(b) “cheap” imports (or dumping) and the principle of “comparative advantage” to meet food needs to be argued against and this will make the whole system import dependent which will both ruin farmers and make our food needs to the mercy of global vagaries;
(c) that food sovereignty based on the above is possible and practicable and the only thing lacking is political will;
(d) to bring on diverse grains in the decentralizing food distribution system which are culturally and eco-systemically appropriate.
Advocacy with National Advisory Council members (NAC)
Since, the earlier advocacy efforts paid off, with the EGoM meeting referring to the importance of locally bought grains and inclusion of millets, advocacy work was intensified. An opportunity emerged with NAC starting consultations with stakeholders on the subject. In this context, a letter was drafted and sent to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, members of the National Advisory Council (NAC) and other relevant Ministries on the draft National Food Security Act, along with review of the Draft of the EGoM Food Security Bill by May 2010. This was widely circulated among the MINI members, the National Advisory Council on Food Security Bill and especially to more than 500 Member of Parliament.
Post card Campaign Addressing the National Food Security Bill
On 23rd October 2010, the Empowered Group of Ministers put forth a draft bill, in which very encouragingly millets were included under the food entitlements clause. Where it is suggested, that for distribution of food, two categories be enacted as eligible for legal food grain entitlement under the proposed Food Security Act: (a) priority and; (b) general. Those under the ‘priority’ category will be eligible for a monthly quota of Rs 35 kg foodgrains at a subsidised price of Re 1 per kg for millets, Rs 2 per kg for wheat and Rs 3 per kg for rice. The ‘general’ category will be entitled to a monthly quota of 20 kg of foodgrains at a price not exceeding 50 per cent of the minimum support price (MSP) the government offers for procurement.
An intensive Post card campaign was initiated across 7 states where in more than 1.43 lakh Postcards were sent to the National Advisory Council, New Delhi.
Representation to the National Advisory Council
On 25th March 2011, a team of farmers representative from DDS and MINI, met Shri K Raju, Joint Secretary, National Advisory Council and the team discussed the key issues for about an hour. After general introduction form the women, he also told us that they have been receiving our communications sent earlier and that these have been discussed in the NAC meeting from time to time, and that the members are very positive to the suggestions.
First National Consultation on Millets in 2008 at NIRD, Rajendra Nagar
The Millet network building process started with the First National Consultation in Millets during 5th and 6th June 2008, in collaboration with the National Institute of Rural Development, a premier rural government body. It brought together for the first time Scientists, Civil society, farmers and policy makers.
Establishing Seed Bank
During 2009, in a unique action research to increase the availability of millet seed to farmers in the drought stricken District of Ananthapur, Andhra Pradesh, initial support to support distribution of seeds was initiated by MINI partner Anantha Paryavaran Parirakshana Samathi (APPS) a network of 13 NGOs. The funds were primarily used to purchase seeds especially of small millets, the seeds thus procured were supplied to the farmers at ½ the price. Another half of the seed cost, was born by the farmers. And at the end of the season as per the traditional seed exchange practices called nagu, a traditional exchange practice call for the farmer to return double the quantity of seed at the end of the crop season that they borrow at the beginning of the season. The seed thus pooled will be saved and preserved with in the villages and form the Village Seed Bank. This has helped farmers from more than 30 villages to bring back diverse millet based farming system, which was on the verge of disappearing.
On 25th October 2009, a one day food festival cum seminar in Chandigarh, Punjab was organised jointly by MINI, Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM) along with The Chandigarh Press Club. The event Bebe di Rasoi – 2009 (Heritage of Great Grandmothers Kitchen) was strategically planned to take forward the revival of millets in a State such as Punjab, which is iconic of the paradoxes of the modern agriculture, in this state which it is boasted to be top in productivity charts, also has apparent challenges affecting severe land, soil, health and ecological degradations. This Event “Heritage of Great Grandmothers’ Recipe with health, Bebe di Rasoi – 2009 on 25th October 2009 constituting of a Millet based traditional food festival, parallel to which public meeting and awareness concerning health, nutrition and millets was organised, where state officials including Chief Minister Sardar Badal the journalists, Scientists, Medical professionals and people at large and farmers from the surrounding districts participated.
Apart from the splendid display of millet seed diversity, the traditional recipes displayed by women, another highlight of the event was the Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, called up the younger generation to develop a habit of taking traditional food which had far more nutritional value than the modern food and asked them to shun the fast food culture of Pizza, Noodles, Burgers and Pastas. He observed naturally grown and seasonal foods have always been intricately woven in our food culture, but unfortunately we have almost lost this. He also assured some support and the rural women from different districts of held forth in the cookery classes on various millet based recipes.
IInd National Consultation
On the 16th and 17th November, 2009 the II National Consultation of MINI was organised in collaboration with the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) as part of the National Forum for Policy Dialogue. This brought together a greater number of scientists, number of farmer leaders, civil society organizations, environmentalists, media practitioners participated in the Consultation which has helped to take the millet debate on to the centre stage of national food policy. In this meeting more than 70 participants from different walks of life deliberated on the issues concerning millets and a Delhi Declaration on Millets was the outcomes, a report of the consultation was also published for wider dissemination.
In January 2010, MINI partners in Karnataka, participated with a display of millet foods and seed diversity in ‘Krushimela ‘ (a farmers fair) organized by ‘Sri Dharmasthala Rural development project, Govt of Karnataka. On this occasion more than 1.5 lakh people farmers visited the millet stall and enrolled their names, as requiring millet seeds. The south Karnataka, District Rural Development Project officials, showed great interest in promoting millets in the dryland areas of Chikkamangalur and Gadag Districts.
On January 22nd 2010, during the annual Celebration of the 11th Annual Biodiversity Festival from January 14 to February 14, 2010. In this festival of the Zaheerabad region, with thousands of millet farmers participating, the highlight was also the visit and interaction with Dr. Hampaiah, Chairman, Andhra Pradesh Biodiversity Board. This visit further facilitated the initiation and encouragement among farmers to get recognition for the traditional farming and the seed diversity, and strive for getting Argo-Biodiversity heritage status.
On 11th and 12th February 2010, The III MINI steering Committee meeting was organised, where in strategic review and decisions over the coming three years were formulated, during this meeting along with the 20 MINI Steering Committee members.
On 18th March 2010, Millets 2010: Nutritionists Conventions was held in collaboration with the Department of Food and Nutrition, Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University, Hyderabad. The meeting brought together more than 50 participants largely by Doctors, Nutritionists, Dieticians, from academic institutions, private hospitals, Government hospitals, consumer groups and millet farmers and other food technology practitioners and civil society groups. In the inaugural ceremony, alongside the workshop, a Millet Exhibition with a display of diverse varieties of millets, posters on nutritional values of millets in comparison to rice and wheat, Mobile van selling the millet grains brought out exceptional discussions qualities of millet that every Nutritionists/ Doctor/ Dieticians is convinced about.
North East Region Consultation
On 24th and 25th March 2010, the first regional consultation of the North-East region was held at Regional Research Institute, ICAR, Mezhiphem, Shillong, Meghalaya. In collaboration with Forum for Social Transformations (FST), and North-East Network (NEN), with more than 35 Participants, from 6 States, with participants cut across different sections of society and included, economists, agricultural scientists, nutritionists, farmers practising millet cultivation in Andhra Pradesh and Meghalaya and representatives of NGOs working directly and indirectly on natural resource management and food security linked issues.
On 21st and 22nd April 2010, in association with Fredskorpset, an Norwegian International association that brings civil society groups together on the issues of food security, organic farming and media and supports exchange programmes. As a part of the sharing experiences and exchanges, 30 participants from 7 States discussed the issues of Millet, Food Sovereignty and Climate change.
Western Region Consultation
On 5th and 6th July, in a major initiative with Network members and millet farming communities from three states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat, the first Western Region MINI Consultation took place. With more than 140 participants, the 2 day meeting was a vibrancy of experience sharing, perspective building and strategy formulation. The meeting brought out, clearly the dislocated terminilology of the millets as Barchhat (rough) Anaaj in Gujarati, Mote (Thick/Fat) Anaaj in Hindi, Coarse grains in English; the issues concerning Minimum Price Support for Millets, where farmers do not get to decide on the prices of millets; and its inclusion in various government programmes. The aspect of carbon fixation, carbon credits should be forcefully put before different government officials. At the village level, through the testimonies of millet farmers, especially women, the indigenous storages and seed keeping practices emerged as the key to restoring the local diversity. It was also decided among farmers that every farmer should store the indigenous variety of millets, so that She/he is not forced to buy hybrid varieties. Storage facilities and seed banks should be made available. Along with the importance of millet as food, presentation from these three states, clearly brought out the value of millet based framings systems and it potential to give fodder security. Further, several action points specific to the states were also discussed and future actions are being planned on these lines, and the civil society groups and NGOs are integrating these actions in their current programmes.
Agro Biodiversity Heritage site of the DDS Communities,
Medak District, Andhra Pradesh
With an intention to have about 30 millet based biodiverse farming villages in Zaheerabad region declared as Agro-Biodiversity Heritage Sites, the millet-growing communities in these villages submitted village resolutions to the AP State Biodiversity Board on May 1, 2010. Subsequently, an Expert Group was constituted by the Board and it visited the villages in question and interacted with the members of the communities therein. The members of the Expert Committee were unanimous in their opinion that these communities deserved the Heritage tag. However the APSBB does not have clear guidelines to declare any geographical area as a Biodiversity Heritage Site. Thus APSBB has mandated DDS to chalk out the same; and this process is on.
Initiating “Medak for Millets” Project
With an idea to create a solid base for millet based food and millet farming area it is thought of initiating pilot scale projects on millets with State Administration. Accordingly the matter was represented to Collector Medak. He had taken the proposal in good spirit and convened a consultative meeting on Millets for Medak on July 2, 2010 with all the relevant Heads of Departments in the District. This meeting was attended by Dr Mahtab Bamji, and Latha Sashi, famous Nutritionist experts in the Country.
Millet Diet in Anganwadi Centres
In a novel initiative with the active support from District Administration and in collaboration with the Acharya N. G. Ranga Agricultural University a “pilot scale millet recipes feeding programme” has been initiated for comparison of benefits of millet feeding for children in the age groups of 3-5 years in 10 villages.
DDS, with its vast experience in running Balawadies, where regular millet recipes feeding facilitated the training of cooks and also helped in providing utensils and millet grains to the Anganwadies. The feeding was completed in October 2011, a comparative analysis of millet feeding and its effects in the process.
Millet Exhibition on World Diabetic Day
With rising incidences of diabetes in the country, especially in the urban pockets, MINI felt that there was a case to create awareness in these pockets about the benefits of consuming millets on a regular basis, in lieu of rice or wheat, more so in the case of those suffering from diabetes. A event aimed at generating awareness about the benefits of millets among people living with diabetes was the Diabetes Exhibition organized on May 21 and 22, 2011 at Sri Satya Sai Nigaman, Hyderabad. MINI took an active part in it. The event was organized at the behest of Dr. P.V.Rao, Head of Department, Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, at the prestigious Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences University, Hyderabad. Various millet based products were put up for sale. Some ready to eat preparations were also displayed and visitors were invited to sample them.