Shimla: Popularly known as the ‘Millet Man of India’, Khadar Vali called upon farmers, agriculture scientists and policy makers to promote millets in agriculture to save soil, water, environment and, above all, human health.
“Let us bring millets back to our kitchen, make them an essential part of our staple diet pla, and say goodbye to the emerging health problems,” he exhorted.
Internationally acclaimed food and nutrition expert from Mysore, Vali delivered a special lecture on the role of millets in preventive health — Aahar Sey Arogya — at a one-day workshop-cum-Kisan Mela at Dr. Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni in Solan.
The event was organised by the State Project Implementing Unit (SPIU) of Prakritik Kheti Khushhal Kisan Yojana (PK3Y) of Himachal Pradesh government.
Over 200 farmers from Himachal Pradesh, who have adopted non-chemical, low-cost and climate resilient natural farming after the launch of PK3Y in 2018, participated in it along with PK3Y officials from the state, agriculture department officers, agriculture and horticulture scientists and students.
Secretary Agriculture, Rakesh Kanwar, Vice Chancellor, Dr. Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Rajeshwar Singh Chandel, State Project Director, PK3Y, Naresh Thakur, Director, Agriculture, BR Takhi, and Umendra Dutt and Poonam Sharma from Kheti Virasat Mission also attended the workshop.
The event set the tone for focus on millets in Himachal Pradesh ahead of ‘International Year of Millets-2023’ declared by the United Nations as it was followed by a meeting of the working group of agriculture experts of state to chalk out a strategy for promotion of millets in Himachal Pradesh.
Vali advocated against growing and eating wheat and rice and asked the farmers to start cultivating the ‘forgotten food’ millets again. “The water required for rice and wheat crops in one year equates with water requirement of millets for 26-30 years. This single reason is good enough for scientists and farmers to have shifted to the cultivation of millets,” he said.
He said it is known that “if we want to save soil and check its degradation, we need to plant C4 grasses. Millets are C4 plants. But on one hand, we are trying to save soil, environment and water, and on the other hand, we are promoting C3 plants like wheat and rice, which are degrading and depleting them. How can we talk about biodiversity without millets?”
The food and nutrition expert categorically held that the issue has been neglected by the Agriculture Corporate Food Factory Culture, who are controlling the food and food habits.
Vali said that whether it is glucose imbalance, hormonal imbalance, microbes imbalance, the humans have been facing various health problems with each passing day due to the ‘economic model’ being followed by society.
Vali said that he has done major work on millets, what he calls ‘Panch Ratna’, including Foxtail millets, Browntop millets, Little millets, Kodo millets and Barnyard millets.
He said the barren lands could be rehabilitated with natural farming of millets. He said his experiments have shown that eating millets can not only help prevent diseases, but can help the patients manage better in the progressive diseases with improved indicators.
“This is not a magic. It is a perfect science of millets, which are real foods for healthy living,” he said.
According to Vali, millets are the first domesticated grass and added that there is need for an awareness drive on the benefits of millets.
Secretary Agriculture, Rakesh Kanwar said that the International Year of Millets 2023 is a great chance to make a beginning on millets. “A discussion at this workshop will help us in a paradigm shift in policy on agriculture,” he said. He requested Vali to be mentor for the Millet Working Group in Himachal.
Vice Chancellor of Nauni University, Rajeshwar Singh Chandel, said that the university will play its role significantly in the action plan to be prepared by the Working Group on millets for the state.