Agriculture: 2023 is the International “Year of Millets”

(Last Updated On: 1 April 2023)

Three years ago, in March 2021, the United Nations (UN) general assembly declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets (IYM) to amplify efforts in producing millets because of their nutritious properties and resilience in adapting to climate change.

The UN says as the world agrifood systems face challenges to feed an ever-growing global population, resilient cereals like millets provide “an affordable and nutritious option, urging that efforts need to be scaled up to promote their cultivation”.

They are an important source of nutrition for millions of people in Sub-saharan Africa and Asia. They are deeply rooted in Indigenous Peoples’ culture and traditions and help guarantee food security in areas where they are culturally relevant, says the global body.

“Millets are incredible ancestral crops with high nutritional value. Millets can play an important role and contribute to our collective efforts to empower smallholder farmers, achieve sustainable development, eliminate hunger, adapt to climate change, promote biodiversity, and transform agri-food systems,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu told participants at the hybrid event in 2021.

Greater millet production can support the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and can provide decent jobs for women and youth. The revenue created can boost economic growth. “With the possibility of a health cereal alternative with millets, the risks associated with production shocks can be mitigated,” QU added.

The IYM 2023 and the push towards increasing millet production will contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

QU called millets an important crop, adding that it provides a unique opportunity to raise awareness of and to direct policy attention to the nutritional and health benefits of millet consumption, the suitability of millets for cultivation under adverse and changing climatic conditions, and creating sustainable and innovative market opportunities for many countries around the work for millets to benefit farmers and consumers globally.

IYM 2023 hopes to galvanize interest in millets among various stakeholders like farmers, the youth, and civil society and push governments and policymakers to prioritize the production and trade of these cereals.

Millet growing in Uganda

In Uganda, finger millet is widely grown in the east, north, and southwestern regions. In the east and north, districts of Apac, Kitgum, Lira, Kamuli, Iganga, Soroti, and Tororo use more than 60 percent of the country’s acreage to grow millet.

Also, finger millet is the second-valued cereal in the country after maize for its nutritious components and “affordability”.

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