Karnataka is hot and dry. Most of the agriculture here is rain fed. So, growing rice or wheat is hard and risky. A farmer himself, Krishna Byre (Minister of Agriculture in Karnataka, India) was looking for another staple for his state. He knew that drought resistant, nutritious and versatile millets could be the answer.
However, like in many emerging economies, when it comes to food trends Karnatakans look at the West, where the staples are wheat, rice and corn. As a result, most farmers dropped growing millets because the demand is low.
With development comes more sedentary lifestyles. It is usually accompanied by a prevalence of easily available high calorie foods, pumped with salt and sugar. Eating the same kind of thing all the time is like growing monoculture for the soil – eventually you will get sick. These trends combined lead to public health problems, like obesity, diabetes and heart disease, undermining human development while putting pressure on economy.
On top of that, the changing climate is going to make dry spells harsher and longer. So, growing drought resilient crops is a clever thing to do to maintain food security if you live in an arid climate, like the one in Karnataka.
“Can we have healthy people and a healthy planet at the same time?” asks Krishna Byre Gowda at the FReSH side event during the 44th session of the Committee on World Food Security. He then shares a story of how, together with ICRISTAT’s Smart Food Initiative, Krishna started to weave value chains for millets in his state.