Over the years, MINI has undertaken the following activities
Grassroots initiatives and Action research
This strategy is based on the core belief of MINI that the communities with whom we are working have the knowledge to overcome the challenges that they face in their agriculture; and that this knowledge needs to be respected and taken into consideration, when designing any solution; thus making the process of finding a solution collective process that sees the active involvement of the communities. The activities undertaken are given asunder. Some of the activities that we pursued, under this broad head include:
Millet Diet in Aanganwadi [Children’s Day Care] Centers
MINI has been working towards the creation of spaces for millets, within the Integrated Child Development Program (ICDS). Towards this end, a program to introduce millets in the meals provided in the Anganwadis was launched by MINI in collaboration with Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University, Hyderabad and the District Administration of Medak in Andhra Pradesh. The program was piloted under the umbrella, Medak for Millets at Yedakulapally in Medak District. The program envisaged working with three groups of Aanganwadi centers; with children in one group of centers being fed a completely millet-based diet as part of their mid-day meal, one group being fed on a partial millet-diet and one group being fed a non-millet diet. A series of tests were conducted on the children from the three groups, to understand the impact of millets on the health and nutrition levels among the children in question.
Agricultural Bio-Heritage Sites
MINI is working closely with Andhra Pradesh State Bio-Diversity Board (APSBB) in order to get 30 villages in the district of Medak, where the farmers have been practicing traditional bio-diversity based mixed farming for several years, as BHS. The process for doing so has been initiated; officials from APSBB visited some of the villages within the proposed site and were impressed with the biodiversity that was evident in the said region, and gave largely positive responses.
Documentation is an important strategy, in tracking and analysing trends in millets farming and consumption.
We pursue the following activites.
Preparation of Educational Material
One of the tasks in front of MINI is to disseminate information about the environmental, ecological and health benefits to people across all generations. In doing so, an important step is to develop educational material in different languages, that is suitable for people belonging to varied demographic categories. As on date, we have developed a range of creatively presented material in different languages including English, Tamil, Kannada, Oriya and Hindi.
In order to better calibrate our work in some of the states, and to prepare the ground for future interventions, MINI is planning to undertake the preparation of status reports in some of the regions. To begin with, such reports are slated to be prepared in the states of Nagaland, Karnataka and North-Coastal Andhra Pradesh. The goal of the Status Reports would be to underscore the important role played by the millets in the lives and livelihoods of the rural populace – especially the poor and the marginalized.
Awareness Generation, Consumer Outreach and Markets
Consumer Outreach and awareness generation is an important strategy for us. By sensitizing the consumers about the health benefits of millets, and the significance of millet-based mixed farming to the food and farming of the country, we seek to improve the demand for millets; this in turn helps enhance the demand for these crops, and thus encourage the farmers to grow them. Some of the activities that we undertake, under this umbrella are:
We regularly organize consumers’ meets, in partnership with our partners in various locations. These meetings are organized in order to reach out to consumers and educate them about the benefits of having millets as a part of their diet.
Millet School Program
Children are the future decision-makes of our country, and have a big role in influencing parents’ decisions regarding food. Therefore, MINI has formulated special programs aimed at generating awareness among children and youth. These have been done in a creative way, through film shows, talks, competitions, etc.
Millet Resource Centers
Millet Resource Centers are not just places where millets are to be processed; they are also envisaged to be information exchanges, wherein all information related to millet cultivation and consumption is available. In 2011, MRCs were set up in Chizami, Nagaland and Pastapur, Andhra Pradesh. In December 2011, a Millet Resource Center was opened in Chizami, Nagaland. MINI Member, North-East Network brought together a variety of seeds, resource material of different kinds including videos, books and so on.
A number of members of MINI are setting up seed banks. North-East Network has identified one woman each in FIVE villages, who are being trained to set up seed banks. These women have already started collecting traditional seeds, and would start lending seeds very in the months to come. Similarly, in Tamil Nadu, Women’s Collective has initiated seed banks in 15 villages across THREE districts.
MINI is constantly striving to engage with the policy-makers at various levels—district, state and national—in order to draw their attention to the looming agrarian and nutritional crises that have resulted from pursuing the current policies; and to the fact that millets are an effective answer to these crises. MINI is striving to ensure that millets are included in the various government food programs; and also to ensure that biodiverse farming practices receive state support in the form of bonuses, credit and insurance services.
Campaigns: campaigns are an integral part of MINI. Considering the antagonistic policy environment that is prevailing, against mixed-farming practices, and the mad race for high productivity, various campaigns become a tool for us to draw the attention of the policymakers towards the concerns of the small and marginal farmers; and to galvanize rural communities into action. One of the recent campaigns is the nation-wide postcard campaign that saw us mobilizing more than 140,000 postcards from the length and breadth of the country, emphasizing the need to introduce millets in the National Food Security Bill. In the coming months and years, we plan more such campaigns, especially for a decentralized PDS, to be put in place.
Network Building and Coordination
At MINI we are constantly engaging with all the members and facilitating interaction among the various our various members; in order to strengthen the network and make sure that it is a dynamic entity. Such interactions and exchanges help members understand the varied and challenging environments within which they are all functioning; and within which millets are growing and thriving. The activities that we undertake herein are:
Annual Mobile Biodiversity Festival of DDS: The Annual Biodiversity festival of the DDS communities is celebrated in the month of January and celebrates the rich biodiversity and traditional knowledge using various folk arts. The festival, with its caravan of festooned bullock-carts full of traditional seeds, is well-known for the visual delight that it presents.
National Convention of Millet Farmers: The National Convention of Millet Farmers was held at Dharwad, Karnataka, on October 16 and 17, 2011 on the campus of University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad. The convention coincided with the World Food Day and was organized with an intention to bring together farmers from different parts of the country—especially women farmers—who are practicing biodiversity based millet farming, to discuss the challenges they face in cultivating millets. Through ‘listening sessions’ the farmers were provided with a platform where they could present their analysis of their agricultural scenario and what according to them could be the solutions. Click Here to know more
Eastern India Convention: The Eastern India Convention was a convention of farmers from the four states from Eastern India—Odisha, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal. It is a known fact that in the eastern Indian states, as in the rest of the country, there has been a steady decline in the cultivation of traditional food grains. This is symbolized by a decline in area under and the production of the various millets that are found in these states. In the light of these facts, the convention was an attempt by MINI and her members to try and understand the various factors that led to this decimation of millets and jeopardized the food sovereignty of millions of poor and marginalized households. In doing so, we delved into a host of debates that area deeply inter-twined with the millet-debate—land use, desertification, the role played by PDS, the invasion of the agricultural fields by various exotic species like hybrid maize and so on. Click Here to know more.