While others in her village in Zimbabwe are struggling with a maize crop that appears to be headed for failure, Jestina Nyamukunguvengu takes up the hoe in the arid Rusinga district of the African country. She cuts through the soil of her fields, which are lush with pearl millet crops.
“These crops are not affected by drought and flower quickly, which is the only way to beat drought. was my favorite place.
Farmers like Nyam Kung Veng in the developing world are at the forefront of a project proposed by India that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has named 2023 as the Year of Millet. It has been cultivated for thousands of years, but was largely sidelined by European settlers in favor of corn, wheat and other grains.
Appointments are timely. Drought hit much of eastern Africa last year. The war between Russia and Ukraine has upended supplies and raised prices for food and fertilizer from Europe’s breadbasket. Concerns about the environmental impact of global transportation of agricultural products have surged. Many chefs and consumers are looking to diversify their diets in an age of overly standardized cuisine.
All of this gives new impetus to locally grown alternative grains and other staples such as millet.
Millet comes in multiple varieties, including finger millet, fonio, sorghum and teff, and is used in spongy injera bread, familiar to fans of Ethiopian cuisine. Millet proponents appreciate its health benefits, being rich in protein, potassium and B vitamins, and most varieties are gluten-free. Versatile, it can be used for everything from breads, cereals and couscous to puddings and even beer.
For centuries, millet has been grown all over the world, including Japan, Europe, the Americas and Australia, but its epicenter has traditionally been India, China and sub-Saharan Africa, FAO said. said Fen Beed, Rural and Agricultural Team Leader. Urban crops and mechanized systems.
Many countries have found themselves “needing to consider what is inherent in their agricultural heritage and what could be revisited as potential substitutes for what would otherwise be imported. , is at risk when there’s something like a pandemic, or when we have.
Millet is more tolerant of poor soils, drought and harsh growing conditions and can easily adapt to a variety of environments without high levels of fertilizers or pesticides. They don’t need as much water as other crops, which makes them ideal for places like the arid Sahel regions of Africa, and the deep roots of cultivars like fonio often make for fertile soil due to drought. It helps mitigate desertification, the process of turning into a desert, or deforestation.
“Fonio is called the lazy farmer’s crop because of how easy it is to grow,” says executive chef and executive chef of Teranga, a New York-based fine-casual food chain that features West African cuisine. Co-founder Pierre Tiam says, “When the first rains fall, the farmers just need to go out and plant the fonio…they barely plow the soil.”
“And it’s also a fast-growing crop. It can reach maturity in two months.
According to FAO, millet accounts for less than 3% of the world grain trade. However, in some arid regions, cultivation is progressing. In the Rusinga district, the land under millet has nearly tripled in the last decade. The United Nations World Food Program deployed dozens of threshers last season to provide seed packs and training to 63,000 smallholder farmers in drought-prone areas.
Declining rainfall and rising temperatures due to climate change in recent years, combined with poor soils, have led to a loss of interest in water-intensive maize.
“You can see that those who grow corn are those who are seeking food aid, and those who grow sorghum and pearl millet are still eating small grains,” says Melody Tsoriyo, a district agronomist, and millet. Alluded to small grains like Its seeds are fine as sand. “We expect small grains to overtake corn within the next five years.”
Government teams in Zimbabwe are spread across remote rural areas, inspecting crops, providing expert assistance, including through WhatsApp groups, and disseminating technical knowledge to farmers.
WFP spokesperson Tatenda Macheka said millet “helps reduce food insecurity” in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe, with a population of 15 million, has long been the breadbasket of southern Africa, but now about a quarter of its people are food insecure, meaning they don’t know where they are. Their next meal will come from.
In Zimbabwe’s urban areas and beyond, restaurants and hotels are riding on the new impression that millet cuisine evokes a sense of luxury, pushing up prices on their menus.
US-based chef Thiam recalls eating fonio as a child in the Casamance region of southern Senegal, but found that fonio is not often eaten in his hometown, capital, New York, or even more. I was worried about He admitted that he had “naively” had his dream of turning what is known in rural Senegal as “royal grain” into a “world-class crop.”
He’s toned down those ambitions a bit, but still sees a small grain future.
“It’s really amazing to be able to get a grain like this that has been neglected for so long,” Thiam said in an interview from his home in El Cerrito, Calif. He’s close to his wife and her family. “It’s time to integrate it into our diet.”
https://www.voanews.com/a/un-eyes-revival-of-millets-as-global-grain-uncertainty-grows/6955450.html Millet resurgence in focus as UN grows global grain uncertainty