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Year : 2023  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-4

Celebrating International Year of Millets: Way towards Holistic Well-Being

Director, All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission20-Jan-2023
Date of Acceptance14-Mar-2023
Date of Web Publication21-Mar-2023

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Tanuja Manoj Nesari
All India Institute of Ayurveda, Sarita Vihar, New Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jacr.jacr_14_23

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How to cite this article:
Nesari TM. Celebrating International Year of Millets: Way towards Holistic Well-Being. J Ayurveda Case Rep 2023;6:1-4

How to cite this URL:
Nesari TM. Celebrating International Year of Millets: Way towards Holistic Well-Being. J Ayurveda Case Rep [serial online] 2023 [cited 2023 May 30];6:1-4. Available from: http://www.ayucare.org/text.asp?2023/6/1/1/372245

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action toward ending poverty and protecting the planet. The SDGs serve as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by creating a world, where no one is left behind. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with SDGs at its core has a focus that extends beyond the present generation and lays the foundation to preserve the aspirations and hopes of future generations. One of the goals, i.e. Goal 2 is “attaining zero hunger.” The objective of this goal is “to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.”[1] However, the challenges and difficulties to meet the objectives of ending hunger, food insecurity, and all forms of malnutrition kept growing. The COVID-19 pandemic has also showcased the lacunas and fragilities in agri-food systems, which are contributing significantly to the rise of global hunger and creating acute food insecurity globally.

As per the statistics, the prevalence of undernourishment has raised from 8.0% to 9.3% from 2019 to 2020 and rose at a slower pace in 2021 to 9.8%. The population affected by hunger has grown by about 150 million since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic –103 million more people between 2019 and 2020 and 46 million more in 2021. It is also projected that nearly 670 million people will still, be facing hunger in 2030 which accounts for 8% of the world population.[2] Around 2.3 billion people in the world were moderately or severely food insecure in 2021 and 11.7% of the global population faced food insecurity at severe levels.[2] It necessitates the current Agri-food systems must be reformed to produce lower-cost, safe, nutritious foods to ensure that healthy diets become more accessible, inclusive, and sustainable.

  Agriculture and Climate Change Top

Extreme weather and changing climatic conditions along with expanding inequalities are intensifying as the key causes of food insecurity and malnutrition. The pace of climatic shift has increased manifolds altering the earth's ecosystems, leading to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions with an unprecedented surge in the global warming. Agriculture plays a significant role in global greenhouse gas emissions with a significant impact on the natural resource systems. In 2020, global greenhouse gas emissions from agri-food systems were 16 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (Gt CO2eq), indicating an increase of 9% since 2000.[3] The current practices for agriculture are unsustainable as they had detrimental effects on the planet's ecosystems and demand work toward sustainable agricultural developments. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has defined sustainable agricultural development as “the management and conservation of the natural resource base and the orientation of technological change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment of continued satisfaction of human needs for the present and future generations. Sustainable agriculture conserves land, water, and plant and animal genetic resources and is environmentally nondegrading, technically appropriate, economically viable, and socially acceptable.”[4] Therefore, in order to achieve the vision of Sustainable Food and Agriculture goals, it is urgently necessary to implement and adapt to actions and create policies to reduce the consequences caused by climatic variability, which includes developing resilient varieties of crops which can withstand abrupt stresses of temperature and precipitation, implementing biotic and sustainable agricultural methods to promote the yield of crops in extreme environments in a holistic and a sustainable way.[5]

  Millets as a Sustainable Solution Top

Agriculture and climate change are closely intertwined. Hence, solutions to combat the impact of climatic change are the need of the hour so that food security can be ensured and hunger can be eradicated, to attain the targets of SDGs by 2030. There is a need to shift agriculture gradually toward drought-resilient crops to feed an ever-growing global population and millets provide an affordable and nutritious option. Millet is a collective term referring to a number of small-seeded annual grasses that are cultivated as grain crops, primarily on marginal lands in the dry areas in temperate, subtropical, and tropical regions.[6] Millets serve as a traditional staple crop for millions of farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Millets can grow on arid lands with minimal inputs and are resilient to changes in climate, thus enhance the self-sufficiency of the nations. They are more pest-resistant and require fewer chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Millets encompass a diverse group of cereals and are classified into major and minor millet. The varied range of millets includes Pearl millet [Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.], Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum L.), Foxtail millet [Setaria italica (L.) P. Beauv.], Barnyard millet [Echinochloa esculenta (A. Braun) H. Scholz], Little millet (Panicum sumatrense Roth ex Roem. and Schult.), Kodo (Paspalum scorbiculatum L.), Browntop [Brachiaria ramosa (L.) Stapf], Finger millets [Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertn.], Fonio millet [Digitaria exilis (Kipp.) Stapf], Sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench], and Teff [Eragrostis tef (Zucc.) Trotter].

Millets have long been employed in Ayurvedic medicine for therapeutic purposes as well as millets has been diversely described in the Ayurveda classics for the nutritional purpose. Various Pathya kalpana (~wholesome dietary preparation) or food preparations using millets have been described in Ayurvedic classics. In Ayurveda, millets are mentioned under Kudhanya varga as dietary supplements and therapeutic agents. The different types of millets are mentioned by the names such as Shyamaka (Barnyard millet), Kodrav/Kordush/Udalaka (Kodo millet), Kanguni (Foxtail Millet), Yavnala/ Raktika/ Sugandhika (Great millet), Madhuli (Finger millet), Nalika (Pearl millet), Cheenaka (Proso millet), etc.

On critical analysis of Rasa-panchaka (~five attributes of any substance), it has been observed that millets are predominantly Kashaya-madhura (~astringent and sweet) in Rasa (~taste); Katu (~pungent) in Vipaka (~bio-transformed Rasa); Sheeta (~cold) in Virya (~potency); Laghu (~light), Ruksha (~dry) in Guna (~property/ quality/ attribute); and Lekhana (~scarifying), Kledashoshana (~dries up excessive moisture) in Karma (~action). They are best advised in Kaphaja roga (~diseases due to Dosha responsible for regulating body fluids and keeping the body constituents cohesive), Pittaja roga (~diseases due to Dosha responsible for regulating body temperature and metabolic activities), and Raktadushti (~vitiation of blood) with gross indications in Sthoulya (~obesity), Kushta (~skin diseases), Prameha (~diabetes), Atisaara (~diarrhea), Medoroga (~diseases due to excessive lipids), Vrana (~wounds and ulcers), and other Santarpanajanya vyadhi (~diseases due to over nourishment of single or multiple tissues).[7] They are an excellent choice for the prevention and management of lifestyle disorders. The Lekhaniya property and Kapha-hara properties of millets make them a suitable option for conditions such as obesity and diabetes mellitus. The attributes of millets such as Madhura-rasa and Laghu-guna, if utilized along with Brimhana (~nourishing) Dravya such as Dugdha (~milk), Ghrita (~clarified butter) etc., can contribute significantly to combating the condition of malnutrition among children.

Conventional therapeutics describes millets as a source of gluten-free protein with a low glycemic index and is rich in a variety of minerals such as calcium, iron, copper, magnesium, etc., B-vitamins, and antioxidants which make them nutrient-dense crops for the benefit of the community as a whole.[8] Millet consumption has been associated with reducing the risk of inflammatory bowel and heart disease and gastrointestinal conditions such as gastric ulcers and colon cancer, lowering blood pressure, blood lipid levels, hypertension, diabetes, and cholesterol levels, and improving bone growth.[9] The millets have now been considered the crops of the future considering their climate change tolerance traits. They have emerged as a key player in meeting food demand and strengthening food security and providing various nutritional-health benefits associated with them.

  Celebrating the Potential of “Nutri-Cereals” Top

Millets are the native crop of India with its earliest evidence found in the Indus civilization. Globally, millets are cultivated in 93 countries where Asia is the largest producer of millets. In Asia, millet production concentrates mainly in India, China, and Nepal, with ~37.5% of global output where India is the largest producer of millet followed by Sudan and Nigeria.[10] It is assumed that the market of millets is set to prosper from its value of more than $9 billion to over $12 billion by 2025.[11] The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has recognized the importance of Millets and declared Millets comprising Sorghum (Jowar), Pearl millet (Bajra), Finger millet (Ragi/ Mandua), Minor millets, i.e. Foxtail millet (Kangani/ Kakun), Proso millet (Cheena), Kodo millet (Kodo) Barnyard millet (Sawa/Jhangor), Little millet (Kutki) and two Pseudo millets, i.e. Buck wheat (Kuttu) and Ameranthus (Chaulai) as “Nutri-cereals” for production, consumption, and trade point of view.[12] Recognizing the enormous potential of Millets, the Government of India (GOI) has prioritized Millets and observed the “National Year of Millets” in the year 2018. The GOI has also featured millets in initiatives such as the Adaptation of African Agriculture (AAA) and programs such as the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) funded by the African Development Bank. The GOI had proposed to United Nations for declaring 2023 as the International Year of Millets (IYM) which was supported by 72 countries and the United Nations General Assembly declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets at its 75th session on March 5th, 2021. IYM 2023 will be an opportunity to raise awareness of, and direct policy attention to the nutritional and health benefits of millet consumption, suitability of millets for cultivation under adverse and changing climatic conditions, promoting the sustainable production of millets while also highlighting the benefits of creating sustainable market opportunities for producers and consumers.[13]

In India, the inclusion of millets as a central component of the G-20 summit in India has been proposed to provide a genuine millet experience to the delegates through tasting and interactions with farmers, and interactive sessions with start-ups will enhance the overall millet experience. The activities related to IYM for the month of January 2023 were kick-started by the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, GOI where 15 activities over 15 days in January have been organized which include engaging sports persons, nutritionists, and fitness experts through video messages, conducting webinars on millets with leading nutritionists, dieticians and elite athletes, promotion amplification through Fit India App, etc.[13] The Embassies of India across more than 140 countries will be participating in the celebration of IYM during 2023 by conducting side events on IYM involving the Indian Diaspora through the exhibition, seminars, talks, panel discussions, etc.[14] The Hon'ble Prime Minister of India, aims to make IYM 2023 a “People's Movement” and also to position India as the “Global Hub for Millets.”[15] In recognition of the commencement of the new year 2023 as the “International Year of Millets,” the All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA), New Delhi introduced a broad variety of millet-based foods in its canteen, in the presence of the Hon'ble Union Minister for rural development and Panchayati Raj.

  International Year of Millets 2023 for Sustainable Development Goals Top

IYM 2023 will significantly contribute to achieving the SDGs, particularly SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 3 (Good health and well-being), SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth), SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production), SDG 13 (Climate action) and SDG 15 (Life on land).[16] Sustainable cultivation of millets can help combat hunger and advance food security, nutrition, and health. Millets serve as an affordable source of iron for diets, high protein, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and minerals, thus, can be a significant component of a balanced diet thereby ensuring the health and well-being of all. Increased millet use and production can open up markets and provide farmers, and small-holders in the food industry with new revenue streams, stimulating economic growth. Millets production can aid in creating new horizons for climate-resilient agricultural practices which can emerge as an effective, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable agri-food system for greater productivity, better nutrition, and environment guaranteeing stability and sustainability.

  Expanding the Scope of Millets Top

Ayurveda gives immense importance to the diet of both the healthy and diseased. Ayurveda considers the entire human body as a product of food. Ayurvedic theories hold that a person's physical, temperamental, and mental states are all influenced by the food they eat. According to Ayurveda, the first and most important pillar of life is food. Therefore, a healthy diet should be considered, as it is necessary for excellent health and normal body functions. There are varied ranges of Pathya kalpana or food preparations mentioned in Ayurveda Classics which can expand the scope for appropriate utilization of millets, as deemed fit to the patient and the diseased condition. Millets are to be advised on the basis of the individual's Agni bala (~digestive capacity) as they are Laghu and Ruksha with higher amounts of dietary fiber, which make them a suitable choice for the gradually increasing burden of Santarpanajanya vyadhi such as Obesity, Diabetes mellitus in adults. Shyamaka or barnyard millet is the choice of treatment for such over-nourishment disorders as described in Ayurveda classics and has been used for ages traditionally.[17] It has been stated in Ayurveda classics that i.e. Being thin is preferable to being obese, and the Laghu, Lekhaniya property of millets, with low glycemic content and the added benefit of long-term satiety, making it an excellent choice as a high energy nutrition food for a healthy life. Millets with qualities such as high in fiber, calcium, and minerals, not only offer an excellent source of energy and a potent stimulator of mental and physical growth of children, and teenagers but also help to keep weight under control satisfying the nutritional needs of growing children. Since there is a growing interest in healthy and sustainable foods where dietary preferences are changing quickly, they can be a healthy substitute for junk food. This will assist in developing a new era of Ayurvedic millet food recipes benefitting the whole society and nation. This will certainly lead to newer horizons for the food businesses and food sector to expand their product lines to healthier food options made with alternative ingredients like millet. There is a growing trend of the revival of ancient Ayurvedic culinary practices which has prompted the food sector to broaden itself and to introduce Ayurvedic food and product ranges in the market. Millet-based Foods products are becoming increasingly popular in the market as a healthier eating option. However, there are certain barriers to fully utilizing the potential of millet in the food sector. Food entrepreneurs are facing challenges and barriers to completely adapting and utilizing the potential of millet in the food market such as high production costs, expensive raw materials, lack of significant quantity of raw materials, and less awareness among people about the health benefits associated with consumption of millet. It requires social and cultural capital investments, accessible ingredient supply chains, production facilities, processing technology, distribution, ecosystems, and financing to overcome these challenges.[18] There is a need to repurpose the existing support to agriculture with the objective of promoting the production of millet, which would contribute to making a healthy diet less costly and more affordable. Newer improved agri-food systems policies must be advocated to create healthy food environments and provide consumers with several options for a healthy millet-based meal. Repurposing and implementing policies, support, rising awareness for the promotion of millet production and consumption, promotion of biofortification of millet, more research and scientific publications on millet, adoption of millet-based meals in mid-day meal scheme, Integrated Child Development (ICD) programs, etc., encourage and support through print, social, and electronic media are required. Further research and development studies on traditional and contemporary millet recipes are needed through inter-ministerial/inter-departmental collaborations, as are studies on other elements of millet development such as enhanced shelf life, packaging, and branding. Promotion involves the creation of various Information, Education and communication (IEC) resources, such as Ayurvedic-millet recipe books, online modules delivered by chefs, and recipe popularization through collaboration with the hotel and hospitality industry. There is a need to make strategic plans and take new initiatives to promote millet as a more affordable, nutrient-dense food, increasing the availability and affordability of healthy food, which will enhance and improve the livelihoods of farmers, boost the entrepreneur culture, support the new start-ups, create decent jobs, promote economic growth which is more sustainable and leaving no one behind.

  References Top

United Nations. Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; 2015. Available from: https://sdgs.un.org/publications/transforming-our-world-2030-agenda-sustainable-development-17981/. [Last accessed on 2023 Jan 10].  Back to cited text no. 1
FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022. Repurposing Food and Agricultural Policies to make Healthy Diets more Affordable. Rome, FAO; 2022. Available from: https://doi.org/10.4060/cc0639en/. [Last accessed on 2023 Jan 10].  Back to cited text no. 2
FAO. Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Agrifood Systems. Global, Regional and Country Trends, 2000-2020. FAOSTAT Analytical Brief Series No. 50. Rome, FAO; 2022. Available from: https://www.fao.org/3/cc2672en/cc2672en.pdf/. [Last accessed on 2023 Jan 10].  Back to cited text no. 3
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Building a Common Vision for Sustainable Food and Agriculture: Principles and Approaches. Rome; 2014. Available from: https://www.fao.org/3/i3940e/i3940e.pdf/. [Last accessed on 2023 Jan 10].  Back to cited text no. 4
Arora NK. Impact of climate change on agriculture production and its sustainable solutions. Environ Sustain 2019;2:95-6.  Back to cited text no. 5
Available from: https://www.fao.org/3/w1808e/w1808e0c.htm/. [Last accessed on 2023 Jan 10].  Back to cited text no. 6
Unnikrishnan PM, Patil S. An eyeshot on Kshudra Dhanya in ayurveda. J Ayurveda Integr Med Sci 2021;6:118-24.  Back to cited text no. 7
Kumar A, Tomer V, Kaur A, Kumar V, Gupta K. Millets: A solution to agrarian and nutritional challenges. Agric Food Secur 2018;7:31. [doi: org/10.1186/s40066-018-0183-3].  Back to cited text no. 8
Annor GA, Tyl C, Marcone M, Ragaee S, Marti A. Why do millets have slower starch and protein digestibility than other cereals? Trends Food Sci Technol 2017;66:73-83.  Back to cited text no. 9
Meena RP, Joshi D, Bisht JK, Kant L. Global scenario of millets cultivation. In: Millets and Millet Technology. Singapore: Springer; 2021. p. 33-50.  Back to cited text no. 10
Mane RP, Kshirsgar RB, Patil BM, Agarkar BS, Katke SD. Physicochemical, functional and nutritional properties of millet grains. Pharma Innov Int J 2022;11:1596-600.  Back to cited text no. 11
Available from: https://www.fao.org/newsroom/detail/international-year-of-millets-unleashing-the-potential-of-millets-for-the-well-being-of-people-and-the-environment/en/. [Last accessed on 2023 Jan 18].  Back to cited text no. 13
FAO. IYM 2023 Communications Handbook and Toolkit. Rome, Italy. 2022. Available from: https://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/cc3253en/. [Last accessed on 2023 Jan 24].  Back to cited text no. 16
Shastri HS, editor. Ashtanga Hridya of Vaghbhatta; Sutra Sthana; Dwividhopkarniyam Adhyaya. Ch. 14., Ver. 21-31. Varanasi: Chowkhambha Surbharti Prakashan; 2016. p. 226-7.  Back to cited text no. 17
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