Millets: symbol of more autonomy for the farmer
According to an old custom, farmers use to start founctions by offerings of lamps, flowers, and a small mound of seeds (often millets).
Ragi, a millet variety, has become a "super star" for environmental activists in India, thus the significance of this offering is much more: offered to Mother Earth, this act becomes a political and social protest.
Millets: symbol of the uselessness of GMO seeds
All that we need already exist. No need to create GMO varieties so called “draught resistant”.
Millets: symbol against a policy with subsidies supporting crops that need fertilisers
State banks and government agencies mostly help crops that are recognised in the market, such as rice, wheat, and tobacco, etc..by subsidising fertilisers and by guaranteeing loans.
Millets are not included in this system. This has negative effects on their production.
Millets : symbol of the struggle against the uniformity of food, consequence of the “Green Revolution”
Millets have disappeared from meals and quite often the young generation doesn’t know about their existence. Today, environmental activists highlight millets as a symbol of protest : the freedom of choosing what we want in our plates.
Millets: a symbol against the proponents of the rice-wheat duo
A major part of the political players are from North India. Influential states such as Punjab or Harayana have affected the eating habits of India today. The government furnishes the poorest sections of people with rice and wheat at very low rates. Many of the families that receive this aid live in mountainous or arid regions, traditionally millet-growing areas. They thus depend on food brought from distant plains.
Millets: a symbol of preserved heritage. With seed banks, the role of women is reasserted.
“What was once precious in biodiversity is that each farmer selected and stored the seeds that suited his land best, which gave him freedom and autonomy” (testimony of a farmer in the French documentary of Coline Serreau Local Solutions for a Global Disorder). Sowing, selecting and conserving seeds was the woman’s domain. NGOs try to raise awareness again to revive these local varieties. Responsible for the quality of family’s diet, women are very sensitive of this. Whereas men are more drawn towards monocultures, or producing and selling more, to the detriment of quality and biodiversity.
Millets: a symbol of preservation of ancient customs. Number of festivals are associated with millets.
Seed banks conserve traditional varieties of millets. They also keep a record of ancient recipes, and organise festivals and demonstrations to spread the word.
Millets: a symbol of family farming and human scale.
Traditional varieties of seeds are a part of an approach to agriculture on small farms, a system that includes animals, which are necessary for obtaining fertilisers that allow for autonomy. Millet straw is a source of fodder of an excellent quality.
The Indian government is not interested in small farmers. Its vision, mirroring the Western system, is that only 6 to 15 % live off of this profession. But, it does not suggest any alternatives: can it relocate and support the thousands of people in cities?
Small farmers cannot count on the government. Their sole concern is reducing the burden of purchasing pesticides, seeds, etc. And moving towards the ‘key values’ that millets stand for.