The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) moderated the technical segment of the opening ceremony of the International Year of Millets (IYM2023) at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome on 6 December 2022.
ICRISAT had a pivotal role in supporting the Government of India’s proposal in the FAO Council to celebrate the International Year of Millets, working with governments in its host countries in Africa to gather support letters.
Ms Beth Bechdol, Deputy Director-General, FAO of the United Nations moderated the opening ceremony which was led by the Director-General of FAO Mr QU Dongyu. Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT, and Vice Chair of the International Steering Committee for IYM2023 moderated the technical panel discussions.
Ms Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations who presented virtually, reminded the 4000 registered participants that the world is paying attention to millets.
Food choice of the future
Ms Shobha Karandlaje, Minister of State for Agriculture, India, read out a message from the Prime Minister of India at the opening ceremony.
The Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi, emphasized on India’s ancient grain millets as the ‘food choice of the future’. India’s philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family) was cited in the context of sharing globally India’s millet heritage and research learnings.
Speaking virtually, Mr Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development of Nigeria, called for investment in millets for reduction of malnutrition and poverty and creation of jobs.
Mr Abubaker emphasized on the role of research institutes in developing varieties with higher yield, providing access to improved seed and developing the millet value chain.
Ms Janaina Tewaney Mencomo, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Panama and Ms Shobha Karandlaje in their messages reiterated the climate resilience of millets and the need to bring back millets to the table by making them a key component of the food basket.
Technical panel discussions
Mr Abdou Tenkouano, Executive Director, West and Central Africa Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF) emphasized: “Millets were traditional foods in Africa; IYM2023 can help reinvigorate these crops which have largely been replaced by imported staples.”
Chef Anahita Dhondy from New Delhi gave examples of how millets can be prepared as tasty exotic and traditional dishes to increase consumption, while Mr Arnaud Petit of the International Grains Council (IGC) discussed opportunities for trade, and market transparency.
Dr Hughes summed up the technical session in four points:
- Millets are a part of the solution to crop productivity in the drylands;
- Global trade in millets is a pathway to prosperity;
- Millets are highly nutritious and can help combat lifestyle diseases, and can be prepared in ways that are attractive, both familiar and exotic; and
- They are indeed Smart Food for the future!
In the FAO atrium display accompanying the opening ceremony, ICRISAT displayed its research work on millets in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The coffee table book titled ‘Millet Movement in India‘ developed by ICRISAT and endorsed by Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, was on display.