Smiley Movement logo

'New quinoa’ saves the environment

Words by Smiley Team

Have you ever heard of the grain millets? Perhaps not, but you’ve probably heard of quinoa.

Well, in March this year, the United Nations declared 2023 the ‘International Year of Millets' – they’re trying to make millets a staple food item worldwide. 

Millets are climate change resistant crops, and are being incorporated into leading ecological strategies. The 'supergrains’ have multiple vital health benefits, too, such as being a key blood sugar stabiliser for diabetics. 

[Read More: How the 'hub of hope' is supporting mental health]

Now dubbed “the new quinoa”, millets are riding the wave of a significant popularity spike. A healthy substitute for common grains such as wheat and rice, millets are highly rich in vitamins and minerals (including iron, calcium and B vitamins), fibre, protein, antioxidants – and they’re gluten free. There are different types, including foxtail, sorghum, finger, fonio, little and pearl. 

So how do they save the environment?

These superfoods are being championed by leading environmental initiatives, such as the Isha Foundation’s revitalisation project, Rally for Rivers, which aims to save drying tropical rivers by helping farmers adopt agroforestry. 

Agroforestry is the practice of growing fruit or timber trees along with conventional crops, or on a full-fledged basis. This extra tree revives the river and groundwater levels by increasing water retention. It also improves soil health by replenishing organic content in the soil. 

Rally for Rivers’ large-scale on-the-ground campaign, Cauvery Calling, has already shifted 107,000 farmers to agroforestry in the Cauvery river basin, Tamil Nadu, southern India. The initiative has been helped by the fact that the state government has introduced a minimum assured income for farmers growing millets - an ideal crop to grow whilst tree cover is being established - providing them with further incentive to switch to agroforestry. 

[Read More: Why seaweed is vital in the climate crisis]

Millets are chosen because traditional crops, such as rice, are irrigated using water from the river. By switching to this easy to grow crop, the strain placed on the river will fall dramatically. Millets are also capable of growing under drought conditions, with little or no irrigation, and in regions with very low rainfall. As desertification intensifies and soil dries out, millets will be literal lifesavers. 

The UN’s resolution for the International Year of Millets recognises the “urgent need to raise awareness of the climate-resilient and nutritional benefits of millets and to advocate for diversified, balanced and healthy diets through the increased sustainable production and consumption of millets.”

Image credit: BadNewsDups / Shutterstock

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

You might also like…