Millets have been an integral part of our diet for centuries. In addition to a plethora of health benefits, millets are also good for the environment with low water & input requirement. With the aim to create awareness and increase production & consumption of millets, United Nations, at the behest of the Government of India, declared 2023 the International Year Millets. To commemorate this, the India’s Permanent Mission to the UN in ccordination with India’s Ministry of External Affairs is hosting various interactive activities around Millets.
Mission LiFE, a global initiative for ‘Lifestyle for Environment’ is a groundbreaking step towards sustainable living, according to Ruchira Kamboj, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN. Kamboj was speaking at a reception hosted by India’s Permanent Mission to the UN on December 4, 2023 at the UN headquarters in New York to highlight 2023 as the International Year of the Millet.
According to Kamboj, Mission LiFE and the focus on Millets jointly represent a holistic approach to sustainability. “It’s a clarion call for everyone, everywhere, to rethink their lifestyles and make choices that contribute positively to the Earth’s well-being,” Kamboj said. Earlier at the ‘India Roundtables’ panel discussion at the UN about Mission LiFE, Kamboj had said that the initiative focuses on mindful and deliberate utilization instead of mindless and destructive consumption.
Based on the Gandhian concept of Lifestyle for Environment and Human Flourishing to promote sustainable lifestyles and enduring peace, the Indian initiative was launched globally by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UN Secretary General António Guterres in February 2023.
Acknowledging the need for global support to the initiative at the reception, Secretary-General Guterres said, “’Mission LiFE’s vision aligns perfectly with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. It’s a testament to how individual responsibility can foster a sustainable future for the entire planet.”
India is the world’s largest producer and second-largest exporter of millet according to sources. Technically seeds, millets are small grains grown on poor quality soil with very little irrigation. There are nine kinds of millets which grow in India, including sorghum, finger millet, little millet, kodo millet, foxtail millet and barnyard millet. They all differ from each other in color, texture and size.
However, its consumption has largely remained in the rural areas, a scenario which, Modi has been working to change since 2014 to boost millet production and consumption. At the G20 summit in September 2023 in New Delhi, world leaders were served an all-vegetarian dinner predominantly made of millets. At the commemorating ceremony of the International Year of the Millet in February 2023, India organized a special exhibition on the occasion on different kinds of millets grown in India, their nutritional value and health benefits, and a reception with millet-based savories.
Millet and millet based fusion dishes have been introduced by well-known Indian restaurants and gourmet chefs including barley and sorghum salad, millet tortillas and dosas, sorghum pita pockets, ragi pancakes, millet risotto, ragi pizzas, and also millet chips, chakli, noodles, breakfast cereals, and even millet-based beers.
The push for millets by India is based on their being environment friendly. They require less water and can grow in harsher climates, making them a sustainable choice while the world faces increasing water scarcity and global warming.
One of the highlights of last week’s special reception was a performance by Falguni Shah, a Grammy nominee, of her number, ‘Abundance In Millets’ originally ‘written and performed’ by Falu and Gaurav Shah with the prime minister who came up with the concept and contributed the lyrics and collaborated in creating it.
One of the lyrics by Modi goes, “The shared efforts of our farmers and us….will adorn India and the world’s prosperity with a new radiance.”