Published: 17th October 2018
Dharwad's UAS is initiating the millet revolution by encouraging students to consume and make millet dishes
UAS Dharwad plans to promote consumption of millet among common people. To achieve this, they have been providing a platform for students to sell their own value-added millet dishes in Tier II cities
In a bid to encourage healthy food habits among students, University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharwad, introduced dishes made with millet in their hostel mess last month. Every day, either the breakfast, lunch or dinner has at least one dish made of millet. Dr RR Patil, Directorate of Extension and Director, SAMETI (North), UAS, says, "We had a few reasons to introduce millet in the mess of the hostel. These days, due to consumption of junk and unhealthy food, everyone suffers from diabetes, cholesterol and other heart-related diseases. With the introduction of millet in meals, it will help students stay away from these diseases. We also plan on continuing this tradition and introducing millet in meals of upcoming batches of students as well."
However, it is not easy for some students to get accustomed to dishes made with millet. "Millet dishes are not that tasty. Students prefer eating something spicy or tangy. It takes time for anyone to get used to the taste of millet. We believe that through students, even their family members can cultivate the same habit and can later, convey the same message to others as well. When we say millet dishes, it includes ragi malt, millet upma, jowar roti and jowar khichdi. " he says.
Millet Mania: Doll decorated with different types of millet grains Pic: D Hemanth
Last year, many states, including Karnataka, suffered droughts, because of which there was a decrease in yield and a rapid increase in farmers suicide cases. Hence, the Government of India declared 2018 as the National Year of the Millet. "We encouraged millet cultivation because it can grow in less fertile regions without the use of chemical fertilizers. We also wanted to encourage farmers to take up organic farming. Millets are even resilient to climate change. However, there are very fewer takers for millet in the market. This is because there are only a few millet processing units in Tier II cities. The picture here is not like Bengaluru, where techies accept changes that are for the good," he explains. To change that, this September, UAS started a millet processing unit in their campus, especially for farmers who can process about two tonnes of millet per day at the facility. They are charged a nominal fee for using the machine for processing millet grains.
In August 2018, the Government of India sent a proposal to the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) to consider 2018 as the International Year of Millet
Apart from including millet in the meals of hostel students, the Food Science and Nutrition Department of UAS has been running a programme called experiential learning for undergraduate students. Every year under this programme, students take up the task of preparing value-added products made of millet like nippattu, chakali, millet cookies, ragi cookies, millet-based food mix for sports enthusiasts, millet flour for chapati and the list goes on. Dr Patil says, "This programme has been running successfully from the past ten years. Once in a week, these students who make value-added products from millet set up a small store to sell them. This way, they are able to earn an income, promote millet and gain experience in the food industry."