Farmers of a village in Medak district of Andhra Pradesh have switched to crops that need less water. For years they have been guarding this rare treasure - dozens of varieties of millet seeds that have ensured that despite erratic and poor rains, their families do not suffer the consequences of drought.
"On my four acres, I spent 3000 rupees and got a return of 20,000 rupees. All the food that we eat and all the food for my cattle comes from the farm. The food will last me this whole year. This year the rains were not good. If we had good rains, I would have got upto 30,000 rupees," says Anjamma, a farmer in the village.
Farmers like Anjamma grow 25-30 varieties of crops in the Kharif season and at least 10 varieties in the Rabi season.
"On an acre of farm grow 12 varieties. Some flourish with moderate rain, some no rain, some extra or erratic rainfall. It is an intrinsically risk-insured agriculture. That's where the future appears to be,'' says P. V.Satheesh of the Deccan Development Society.
Advocates say there are compelling reasons to look at millet-based traditional agriculture.
• 60 per cent of the country can grow millets, under rain-fed conditions, on different kinds of soils. Millets on one acre saves six million litres of water.
• Millets are far superior nutritionally to rice and wheat. They have more protein, iron, calcium and fibre.
• As against rice, where the standing water produces greenhouse gases like methane, millets that are grown with legumes fix carbon in the soil.
That's why in a country facing the challenge of drought and malnutrition, including millets in the foodbasket, the PDS (public distribution system), ICDS (integrated child development scheme) and mid-day meal can ensure food and nutrition security, livelihood and fodder security and ecological security, all at one go.