Millets growing in a field.

Climate-Smart Millet - Need Of The Hour

Climate-Smart Millet - Need Of The Hour

By Vaishali Sudan Sharma

Amidst the pandemic, my brain is thinking of all the possible repercussions. There is a social and economic impact that is clearly seen but are we missing something that our naked eye has missed?

Think hard and think about the future. While we are trying to solve the issue of curbing the spread of this disease and misinformation, are we even being smart about what lies ahead of us? One thing which has emerged from it all is that we have started respecting hygiene more than ever, but what about water? What do we do to keep our mission of water conservation alive while we fight COVID-19 battle? And why at all?

Here’s why we need to be a water warrior, especially now:

1. Our globe is warming. The actual air temperatures are rising, and we have noticed a shift in the rainfall patterns. I mean look at April and northern parts of India. They are still seeing sunny intervals with showers. What better example than this to make peace with the fact that greenhouse gases have gained immense power. A heat trap is for real, a spike in temperatures is for real and reduced water levels due to increased evaporation, they are all correlated!

2. Now that we are in a lockdown, and reading a lot more, also spending a lot of time with our kids, I want you to think why it’s worth becoming a water warrior? Well, how much water is being wasted in everyday activities such as brushing teeth, washing hands, bucket baths, flushing, doing laundry and utensils, washing our fruits and veggies properly, using water in cooking?

Water conservation is also linked with other immediate effects of climate change and we may have to pay a heavy cost if we don't understand its impacts.

Impact of climate change and water wastage on humans:

It’s actually deeper and more widespread than one might generally imagine. As mentioned above, when rainfall dwindles and/or becomes erratic, agricultural productivity is altered and reduced. Low yield leads to drastic losses in gross national profits, food shortage and severely affects the socio-economic lives of agrarian communities, none more than smallholder farms. A study backed by the World Bank Group states, “Drought can have health impacts, hamper firm productivity, accelerate the destruction of forests, and compromise agricultural systems.”

Food (in)security:

The threat to food security has mostly contributed to climate change and now I feel like pandemics such as COVID-19 spread rate will also do whatever best to worsen the situation. 

How will the COVID-19 outbreak lead to food insecurity?

According to Down To Earth, “The calculation of wastewater generation is based on 90% of the water used, including the volume wasted when taps are on while scrubbing soap.” With more water consumption around this time, nearly 20 to 40 liters of water is used up every day, with the assumption that every person washes their hands at least 10 times a day, instead of a usual average of five times a day. 

The magazine article also predicts that a family of 5 requires 100 to 200 liters of water per day only to wash hands. This would result in the generation of around 200 liters of wastewater per day, a 20 to 25% increase in water demand and generation of wastewater from human settlements.

Old is gold:

Therefore, it is one of the greatest concerns in a world with a rising human population and dwindling natural resources. In looking for new-age strategies to control climate change, conserving water and maintaining adequate food production, the attention of governments, policymakers and research bodies is turning towards ancient food grains like millets in order to secure the future. The familiar proverb “old is gold” may well describe these grains that have survived and sustained communities in the face of changing weather conditions across millennia. 

Millet is a climate-smart crop as it can withstand harsh climate conditions. The crop has the capacity to grow even under drought. The revival of underutilized and neglected crops such as millets can be our hope in the times to come.

Reviving millets in the age of global cuisines and food trends:

Earlier this month, I did a short piece on the need for the revival of millets. And this month again, I would like to reinstate that millets may be hailed as Noble Grains, but their status in the hierarchy of foods is low. Being perceived as food for the poor, these grains have almost disappeared. But, its time we bring them back from the farms into our kitchen and at our tables.

 

Today, information on the health benefits of millets abound, targeted towards consumers especially in urban areas. But there is more to why these cereals are considered as food of the future. Millets aren’t beneficial only for our health, but also for the planet and agricultural communities, offering sustainable solutions to water scarcity and extreme weather conditions resulting from climate change. 

Information source: Slurrp Farm Millets White Paper and Down To Earth Magazine

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