Written by Satya Sainath (Milllets – Young Professional), RRA Network WordPress | April 10, 2020
Intense engagement of community resource persons and local NGO staff are bringing hopes of change. Hopes of revival of millet. And the Change is slowly becoming visible.
“Do you used to consume millets?” I asked Ms SurkaSisa (Bonda village elder from Semiliguda village of Khairput block) , she became super-excited and came up with long list of names of different millets they used to consume as a child. Though she could not remember her age, she could describe how different millets tasted.
“All Bondas are not same” She explained, “Cultural differences between Upper Bonda tribes and lower Bonda tribes is huge. Upper Bondas tribes have a different language and lives in the hilly terrains. They also consume millets more and are not very amicable. Lower Bondas are more mainstreamed into the Odiya society. Consumption of millets has come down significantly”. “But” she said with a smile on her face “Many recipes can be made from the millets and even tasty country liquor too”.
Conversation rolled on. Surprised by the intricate millet knowledge of Surka Sisa and also detecting affection, I asked her “So why is millets consumption reducing gradually in the lower bonda villages”.
“Because of the drudgery, our shoulder pain becomes unbearable after processing of millets. Young women of our tribe have started eating rice instead of millet. In addition, men prefer paddy because of assured market. We are getting money from the government by selling the harvest of paddy. We used to grow the millets in very large tracts with our available resources. Due to drudgery and lack of market and with time, more people have shifted from millet cultivation practices”.
But she is hopeful that with ragi procurement operations, things might change.
And the change is visible.
GOOD PRICE AND TIMELY PAYMENT
Govt of Odisha initiated Odisha Millets Mission (OMM) in Partnership with NCDS WASSAN and local NGOs. As part of the OMM, a procurement operations have been initiated in 14 districts.
“The prices offered by the traders who come to our village is around Rs. 18 to Rs 22 per kg. We are getting Rs. 31.50 per kilo for mandia at mandi” Said a farmer beaming with joy. Feelings of Happiness and joy are very common in the mandia (Ragi) mandi places among the adivasi millet farmers of Malkangiri. Many farmers still cannot believe that Ragi is being procured by the Government at such high price.
During field visit to the Khairput and Chithrakonda blocks of Malkangiri, I sensed real enthusiasm among farmers. Farmers said that last year, they were not enthusiastic and had many doubts regarding timely payment. Very few farmers sold their produce in the Mandi expecting typical delay in the payments. Since almost all farmers got the payments within 3-5 days, many of them are motivated to sell the produce at mandi.
FAIR AVERAGE QUALITY – FAQ
Farmers said that they have to put additional efforts to clean ragi to ensure it is free of stones, dirt and other mixtures. But they are willing to do it because of remunerative price and timely payment. Ragi also has to be dried to ensure moisture content is less than 12%.Farmers said that if timely payment is made, more farmers will grow and sell ragi.
INVOLVEMENT OF CIVIL SOCIETY
During my field visits , I found that NGO staff and Community Resources Persons are doing a very good job on spreading awareness. CRPs support farmers in registration, training on quality standards, facilitate the procurement by LAMPCS and TDCCOL. They inform farmers about the mandi dates and help them to plan their sale. This intense engagement by NGOs and CRP is building confidence among the farmers for the ragi procurement. Support of NGOs is proving to be a game changer.
NOT EVERYONE IS HAPPY – MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE
But there are some concerns from the farmers. SaniaBadanaik, Semeliguda village worried about the procurement ceiling of 1.2 quintals per acre. He said ‘I harvested more than 15 quintals from my 4 acres of land and I can only sell 4.8 quintals to the LAMPS, 2 quintals is sufficient for family consumption needs. I have to sell the rest to the trader. Traders are not offering good price knowing that we cannot sell more than 1.2 Qntl/Acre to Government.