Agriculture Industry

Reliance Foundation organizes conference on ‘Shaping Perspectives on Practise and Policy for Millets in India’

20 December 2023, New Delhi: Diverse stakeholders from across India’s millet landscape emphasized that challenges of food security, farm livelihoods, and nutrition diversity can be resolved in a climate-resilient manner, by building on the momentum generated during the International Year of Millets (IYOM). They were sharing experiences at a multi-stakeholder conference ‘Shaping Perspectives on Practise and Policy for Millets in India’, organized by Reliance Foundation.

Policymakers, farmer representatives, development sector stakeholders, researchers, and industry representatives echoed the need for greater collaboration, increased farmer-focused efforts, and deliberated successes and challenges from both practice and policy within India’s millet landscape.

Delivering the keynote address at the conference, Ms. Shubha Thakur, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, detailed the Government of India’s efforts to take the millet agenda ahead. She said, “We have created six task forces, in the Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Health, and one in the nutrition sector to continue the journey of millets. Millets are a crop for the future.”

She added “It is heartening to see Reliance Foundation working with farmers. A multi-stakeholder approach is very important if millets are to succeed. To help increase farmers’ incomes, there needs to be value addition through branding, export potential, and more.”

Mr. Jagannatha Kumar, CEO, Reliance Foundation, said, “This decade has been historic for the global food systems dialogue, and transformational for millets. We are witnessing the discourse change to millets being sought after and India has led this change from the front. The strong momentum generated so far should enable us to leapfrog into an era when millets are coming of age in providing food security and diversity amidst climate change. This will also help balance natural resources through climate-resilient farming practices while securing better livelihoods for small and marginal farmers through a value-chain approach. It is essential to build on this momentum, with shared development goals. At Reliance Foundation, we are deeply committed to diversifying food and farming systems with millets and we will continue to build on discussions such as today’s along with other opportunities to share our learnings with stakeholders across the ecosystem.”

A publication, ‘Fostering Resilience for Sustainability: Reliance Foundation’s Millet Experiences’, that documents learnings from millet interventions in different states was released on the occasion. Fostering Resilience for Sustainability showcases end-to-end interventions that include making quality seed accessible to farmers, providing continued technical support, strengthening market linkages, empowering women’s agencies, and building awareness of millets.

Speakers at the discussions included Raman Wadhwa, Director, NRLM; Dr Neelam Patel, Senior Advisor, NITI Aayog; Priyanka Singh, Chief of Rural Transformation, Reliance Foundation; Prof. Ruth DeFries, Columbia University; Prasoon Bhardwaj, Head of Staples, Reliance Retail; K P Kavitha, CEO, Kazhani Farmers Producer Co, TN (FPO); R K Tiwari, Asst Director, Dept. of Women and Child Development, Madhya Pradesh; Savitaben Vasava, millets farmer from Narmada, Gujarat. Senior policymakers, researchers, practitioners, and agriculture experts participated in the event.

Since 2010, Reliance Foundation has been focusing on sustainable agriculture and strengthening food systems through a collaborative approach with various stakeholders. The work with millet small and marginal farmers is another step to build resilience in the face of changing climate while enhancing the nutritional status of communities.

Having observed 2018 as its National Year of Millets’, India presented the proposal for the ‘International Year of Millets’ (IYOM) in the United Nations. At the 75th General Assembly session of the UN in March 2021, the year 2023 was declared IYOM to increase global awareness of the benefits of consuming and growing millets.

India is the world’s largest millet producer and its average production of 16.93 million metric tons during 2019-22 was about 11% higher than the production during 2014-18. Though the area under millet cultivation has reduced, productivity has markedly increased over the years.

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