A survey carried out in the finger millet (ragi)-growing Koraput district of Odisha, India, showed a large unmet demand for value-added millet products owing to absence of millet processing units in the area. ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) took this as an opportunity to propose the establishment of millet processing units to create new entrepreneurial avenues for the predominantly tribal communities in the area, especially for women and youth.
The survey showed: a) Finger millet is the most commonly cultivated and consumed millet in Koraput district, b) Local processing is limited to household-level dehusking/cleaning and at the most, grinding to a flour, c) The whole grain is more commonly marketed, with limited value adding due to the lack of processing infrastructure, d) Though consumers have high preference for millet-based products, they have limited access to value-added products such as millet flakes or millet-based Ready-to-cook (RTC) or Ready-to-eat (RTE) products.
With support from the Odisha Livelihoods Mission (OLM), AIP is aiming to strengthen the millet value chains in the state to improve rural livelihoods by establishing millet processing units that can in turn foster sustainable local entrepreneurship and promote health and nutrition of the local communities.
These processing units licensed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) will have efficient processing equipment (RTC dry mix processing line and a bakery line) to enable localized production of “Nutri-Food products”. AIP-ICRISAT’s first unit is being established in the Semiliguda block of Koraput district. Similar millet processing units are being planned for other millet-growing districts of the state.
Ms Susmita Samantaray, District Project Manager (DPM), OLM, Koraput, said, “High nutritional value is hidden in millets, especially finger millet grown in the tribal areas of Koraput. To attract the younger generations to continue growing finger millet and other millets, this initiative of OLM to strengthen the finger millet value chain in Koraput is a very significant initiative.”
AIP’s first-hand experience with similar interventions in southern India has shown that local enterprises are effective forces of change as they work hand-in-hand with public sector agencies to organize and channel resources to smallholder farmers. In the best of cases, local enterprises have proven to shape the trajectory of an entire industry. With some creative thinking, collaborative partnerships and a great deal of hard work, better livelihood opportunities can be a reality for thousands of beneficiaries in the target districts of Odisha. Thus, the proposed intervention is aimed at enhancing the sustainability and resilience of tribal households to: realize optimum price for their produce without the compulsion of selling immediately at meager rates, enhanced income through access to technology value adding and market linkages.
In addition, a capacity building program “Nutrition and value addition to Ragi (Finger Millet) grown in Koraput” was conducted by AIP-ICRISAT on 8 October 2021 for 35 members of the local “Viswa Durgeswar” self-help group from Rajput gram panchayat. These members will be involved in managing and operating the processing unit being established at Koraput.
“This is the first of a series of trainings to be conducted as part of the OLM-funded initiative to enhance tribal farmers’ incomes by establishing small business enterprises and linking them to markets,” said Dr Saikat Datta Mazumdar, COO, NutriPlus Knowledge Program. He also highlighted that ICRISAT is recognized by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, as a Center of Excellence for Tribal Development.
The training program focused on following aspects: Importance of nutrition and dietary diversity; concept and principles of health, hygiene and food safety; value addition to ragi through product development and local processing; details on plan and layout of the ragi processing unit being established by AIP-ICRISAT at Koraput; key aspects of processing of ragi-based food products and FSSAI regulations; nutritional quality and marketing aspects of ragi-based food products.
The trainees learned about the nutritional importance of ragi-based products such as upma mix, khichdi mix, sweet mix, malt powder, idli mix, dosa mix and cookies developed by NutriPlus Knowledge Program of AIP- ICRISAT. The program also included a demonstration of RTC food products, followed by a tasting. All participants were provided detailed training manuals on the above aspects and hands-on training on preparation of the products as per the FSSAI protocols. Feedback from the group was positive, including that from mothers who appreciated the health benefits and convenience of cooking of the ragi-based RTC products.
Ms Priyanka Durgalla, Senior Scientific Officer, and Mr Harshvardhan Mane, Officer-Partnership Development, from ICRISAT, conducted the training program. The district project team of Dr Aviraj Datta, District Project Coordinator, Koraput; Ms Sucharita, Scientific Officer, ICRISAT; Mr Manoj Kumar Lima, Research Technician, ICRISAT; OLM officials Mrs Mansi Batra, Ms Bindya Guntha, MBK, Rajput; Mr Divyendu (YP), Mr Amit, Mr Karunakar, BPM, Semiliguda; Mr Pradip Kumar Mishra and his team from Foundation for Ecological Security (FES); Mr Abhisek Pradhan, Scientific Officer, AVRDC, participated actively in the program.