Emergent demand for food in light of an ecological crisis inflicted by industrialised countries will only contribute to shortages, rising food costs and resulting political consequences; millets are an obvious choice here
Millets were a part of human agriculture for thousands of years, with evidence dating back to 3,000 BC. They are considered one of the earliest domesticated crops and have played a significant role as a staple food of millions of farmers worldwide, mainly in India, China and many parts of Africa.
Millets can play a significant role in a world plagued with food insecurity and a rising population. At a time when climate change and extreme weather events have aggravated global crop production and food security, shifting to a climate-resilient and micro-nutrient-rich millet-based diet can address this issue to an extent. However, millet production in Africa and Asia can’t even meet regional demands.
Upscaling production also implies a need for enhanced processing solutions. India, the leading millet grower in the world, is still suffering from the Green Revolution hangover. Crop subsidies and gigantic agricultural mechanisation in the country still favour rice and wheat over millet.
Increased millet production would result in the crop moving from arid terrains to fertile land, where the yield would be more significant in quality and size, potentially eliminating the stigma linked to this unacknowledged grain.
“The perceptions are already beginning to shift,” ED Israel Oliver King, an ethnobotanist at India’s biodiversity non-profit MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, told Deutsche Welle, the German state-owned international broadcaster. King added he is optimistic about the role of millets moving forward.
“With improvement in technology and recipe creation, millets production may well eventually become a pillar in global food security,” he added.
Millets can also assist developing countries like India in generating revenue from carbon trading. With several tools in the pipeline to hit sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), carbon markets can provide revenue-generation opportunities to the government.
As carbon intensity and sustainability become increasingly pivotal for private and public entities in today’s global economy, verifiable greenhouse gas (GHG) emission management and discount drivers are keys to meeting national and international Net Zero mandates.
Multi-stakeholder partnerships will enable government and business entities to measure their carbon footprint and take intelligence-driven action to reduce it.
The global population is also anticipated to rise noticeably throughout the 21st century, especially in parts that bear the slightest accountability for the climate predicament. Wealthier nations continuing their CO2 emissions will inflict tremendous penalties on populations in the least rich nations or otherwise settled throughout the global edge.
Also read: Are millets safe from biopiracy?
This emergent demand for food in light of an ecological crisis inflicted by the industrialised countries will only contribute to shortages, rising food costs and the resulting political consequences. Millets are an obvious choice here.
The food system accounts for 26 per cent of current global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Animal husbandry and agriculture, the largest GHG emitters within food systems, is responsible for 15 per cent of global emissions, crudely equivalent to the emissions from the carriage sector.
If we substitute around 11 per cent of alternative proteins with millets by 2035, we will see a reduction of 0.85 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030.
This undertaking supplants all others and will determine the ensuing agricultural adaptations. Every consequent trial will need to figure resiliency into the overall agricultural supply, moderating risk from abating production in certain areas while reducing the potential harm of erratic climate, degraded soil and poor access to water. The ultimate goal should be to diminish or prevent the damage from upcoming climate shocks.
Suraj is a consultant at WASSAN India, an organisation working with Odisha Millets Mission.
Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth.
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