With the UN declaring 2023 as the International Year of Millets, even remote
farming communities across India have joined this Millet Movement. In the remote village of Kanthalloor, Kerala, rural farmers are working to revive their traditional grain and diversify
. The farmers are now expanding from just
(Finger millet), to Barnyard, Little millet, Foxtail, Proso, and Kodo. Let’s dive into their health benefits:
Ragi or finger millet is one of the most nutritious cereals and has the most calcium and potassium of all cereals and millets. The seeds are inexpensive, don’t require much fertilizer or water, and aren’t affected much by pests. This variety can be grown almost anywhere, even in hilly areas, amongst other crops. The primary benefit is that millet stores well giving it a long shelf life.
Barnyard millet is a hardy crop, not perceptible to stresses of climate or pests. It has greater nitrogen-use efficiency over other cereal crops and can even be used to reverse soil contamination. This variety is similar in taste to broken rice and has high levels of protein, calcium, iron, minerals, and vitamin B complex. It is also low in carbohydrates and gluten-free, making it very beneficial for those with type II diabetes and heart issues.
Little millet is a versatile millet that is used not only as a nutritious food but also as animal feed, and bioenergy. It is a climate-resilient crop that is adaptive to most environments, less susceptible to pests and diseases, and less resource intensive. It has a great nutrient profile, rich in magnesium for heart health, and other micronutrients like calcium, zinc, and protein.
Foxtail millet is one of the world’s first cultivated crops, dating back some 4000 years. It is a dry season crop and is primarily grown in arid and semi-arid regions. Its short crop cycle and high nutritional profile make it a great crop for food security. It has a lot of micronutrients and a notably high amount of vitamin B1 which can reduce the risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Proso millet is a heat and drought-resilient crop with a cycle of 60-100 days. It works very well for wheat-based rotation, as it improves wheat productivity by controlling weeds and is pest resistant. Proso millet is full of micronutrients and essential amino acids, which help with heart health and regulate insulin levels amongst other health benefits. Proso is also grown as livestock feed due to its nutrient value, and as biofuel as it can be used to make ethanol.
Kodo millet is a hardy crop with variations that are both drought resistant for drier climates with rocky soil, and that grows in wetter conditions, able to grow in floods and swampy land. Kodo can also be grown in low-nutrient soil and without irrigation. Kodo is known as a better alternative to rice, as it is full of antioxidants, lowers blood sugar and cholesterol, and has anti-allergic properties.