Millets: India

Status of millets

Spatial distribution of millets in India

Display of Millet seeds during "Food Sovereignty" Conference at FireFlies Ashram, Bangalore in February 2011

In India, eight millets species (Sorghum, Finger millet, Pearl millet, Foxtail millet, Barnyard millet, Proso millet, Kodo millet and Little millet) are commonly cultivated under rainfed conditions. In order to analyze the existing Area, Production & Productivity trends of Coarse cereals in the country, share of Coarse cereals vis-a-vis major crops in the country prior to “Green Revolution” and onwards need be appraised. The area assigned to Coarse cereals vis-a-vis major crops in terms of percentage to the Gross Cropped Area (GCA) in the country is enumerated below in Table.

Further, in each of the millet growing areas at least 4 to 5 species are cultivated either as primary or allied crop in combination with the pulses, oilseeds, spices and condiments (as detailed in the previous section). For instance, while Pearl millet and Sorghum are primary crop and allied crops respectively in the desert regions of Rajasthan, in the eastern parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat it is the opposite. Similarly, Sorghum is sown as major crop in the Telangana (Andhra Pradesh), Maharashtra and parts of Central India, while it is considered as fodder crop in some of the Southern regions. Likewise, Finger millet is a primary crop in Tamil Nadu and Gharwal, while the same is a minor crop in Telangana. Hence, the spatial distribution of millets either as a primary crop or as allied crops largely depends on the growing habitat and the amount of rainfall the region receives. While Sorghum predominates in areas receiving annual rainfall beyond 400 mm, Pearl millet rivals it in areas with annual rainfall of 350 mm (please refer to Chart below). Further, the small millets like Finger millet, Foxtail millet, Barnyard millet, Little millet and Proso millet are found in most of the Southern and Central States in India especially wherever annual rainfall is below 350 mm, perhaps where no other cereal crop can grow under such moisture stress.

However, in spite of a rich inter/intra-species diversity and wider climatic adaptability cultivation of diverse millet species/ varieties is gradually narrowing in the recent past. In a way, a lack of institutional support for millet crops in contrast to the institutional promotion of Rice and Wheat continue to shrink the millet-growing region. Over the last 50 years, the share of ‘Coarse grains’, which include Pearl millet, Sorghum, Maize, Finger millet, Barley and 5 other Millet species known as ‘Small Millets’, in terms of total area has registered 25.3% decline from 38.83 Mha. in 1949-50 to 29.03 Mha. in the year 2004-05. In spite of this, several communities in the dry/ rainfed regions having known the food-qualities of Millets over generations continue to include a range of Millets in the traditional cropping patterns, who recognise Millets as an essential part of the local diet.

Chart: Geographical spread of Sorghum, Pearl millet and Finger millet in India.

Finger millet:

Also known as Ragi or Mandwa is the most important small millet food crops of Southern Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttaranchal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, It is grown successfully in areas where rainfall is about 350 mm and temperatures more than 30 degree Celsius.

Pearl millet:

Also known as Bajra is a Kharif crop and is chiefly grown in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Maharashtra. The crop can do well in the areas with less than 350 mm annual rainfall and temperatures between 25 to 35 degree Celsius.


Also known as Jowar is perceived to be important coarse grained food crop which is cultivated widely across Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Utar Pradesh, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and in parts of Rajasthan. The crop is hardy and cultivated in areas with rainfall beyond 350 mm.

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New Laws for old: Forest rights

New laws for old: Forest rights and red-tape wrongs

Shankar Gopalakrishnan, Times of India | Mar 25, 2011

It is a little known fact that in roughly a fifth of India’s land area, a different legal system operates. In some of these places, if you are caught with certain items, it is up to you to prove that you are innocent of a crime — and whether you go to jail depends on whether a government official kept proper records years earlier. If you are using some tools or a cart or a vehicle, they can be taken away until you prove your innocence. And woe betide you if you are cultivating some land — whereas in most parts of the country this is a civil dispute, in these areas, you can be evicted, fined and jailed for it. And in some parts in particular, if you are arrested for the second time, you can’t get bail, and not only your property but that of your family can be confiscated if you “benefited” from an alleged crime.

No, these are not “disturbed areas”, though the laws are only somewhat better than the ones applicable there. These laws apply in India’s forest areas, and are centred around the Indian Forest Act of 1927. It is commonly assumed that the purpose of the Indian Forest Act was to protect forests. But this was not the case.

The 1927 Act was passed by the British with the intention of making it easier for them to access the country’s timber resources for their use.

The “protection” concern was limited to ensuring that the British did not lose “their” timber, and in practice large areas of natural forest were cleared in order to be replaced with “better” trees. For this reason, the main concern of the Act is with preventing “unauthorized” access to forest produce.

Hence the draconian powers of the forest authorities — to arrest, to search without warrant, to confiscate property, and so on. In practice, on the one hand, the rights of tribals and forest dwellers were almost never recorded at the time of declaration of either reserved or protected forests, with the result that their livelihoods and their very existence were criminalized.

On the other, a forest bureaucracy came into existence with powers over vast areas of land and resources, but with hardly any accountability. This has resulted in extremely severe poverty among these communities, as well as a spiral of environmental destruction and violence in the forests which has benefited a few while increasing the environmental and social costs to us all.

This situation led to the passage of the Forest Rights Act in 2006, which was intended to democratize forest management. It was meant to give back the right of forest dwellers to collect forest produce, cultivate their traditional land holdings, and to control their community forests. But, as with any bureaucracy, the forest bureaucracy does not like to give up its power; and forest dwellers continue to have cases filed against them for doing things that are now their legal right.

Meanwhile, both the bureaucracy and the government as a whole are playing a double game on these rights. In the most recent example, on March 22, the Cabinet approved an amendment to the Indian Forest Act in the name of reducing false cases on forest dwellers. The amendment makes it possible for a forest official to “compound” an offence — essentially to release a person upon payment of a fine — for any offence valued up to Rs 10,000. This will supposedly make it possible for forest dwellers to be let off for minor offences.

But this “benefit” ignores the fact that this amendment actually adds to the powers of forest officials — who now can impose fines as well as threaten people with arrest, jail and confiscation of property. If anything, this will lead to more cases, not less. To actually stop harassment, the amendment should have de-criminalized people’s rights and reduced officials’ powers; but there’s no reference to that.

This has now become a pattern. Since 2006 the government has been proclaiming a new system of forest management while actually strengthening the old one. Much talk of making the system people-friendly is accompanied with a deafening silence on the real issue: the autocratic and colonial nature of this system. It’s time we scrapped it and replaced it with one that befits a democracy.

(The author is secretary of Campaign for Survival and Dignity.)


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The Universe Story – Maitreya Workshop

Orla Hazra, Ph.D., Presenter at Maitreya's "Universe Story"

A two day workshop “The Universe Story: Re-centering Ourselves with a new Cosmology” was held at Maitreya Saturday and Sunday, 26-27 March. Meath Conlan, PhD and Orla Hazra, PhD joined with several dozen people to promote this re-centering called for by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry in their book The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era, A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos.  Those attending were a wide range of  professionals— from the IT sector, and also those living in religious communities dedicated to health and social justice initiatives.

Meath Conlan, Ph.D. & Orla Hazra, Ph.D.

The late Thomas Berry has suggested four wisdoms to heal our current alienation from aspects of body/self, each other and the environment: the wisdoms of religion, indigenous/tribal, women and science.

The gathered participants at Maitreya's "Universe Story"

The goal of the workshop was to help participants reclaim a sense of unity, awe and wonder and reverence for life- an eco-spirituality, through the wisdom of science.  In addition, the wisdom of science was placed in conversation with the other three, to reveal the logic within them all, that “all is one”.

Participants eagerly shared of their own experiences

The weekend began by a review of our current ways of practicing life m  ‘as if’ all ‘is not one’, we have lost the sense of the sacred and have a problematic ideal of adulthood –based on progress/development through industrialization. This void many feel is being fed by various addictions and is fueling an unsustainable lifestyle based on increasing consumption patterns.  The lifestyle has had tragic consequences globally for the entire earth community, human and nonhuman.

Orla's gentle and inviting style drew everyone's attention and confidence

To begin to recenter our bodies within the entire earth community, the story of the origins, journey and development of our  bodies / ourselves was told by tracing our current  13.7 billion year shared history of life.  The journey was  shared by reading aloud Born with a Bang, From Lava to Life, and Mammals who Morph written by Jennifer Morgan and illustrated by Dana Lynne Anderson.  The illustrations of the books  were simultaneously projected on a screen to reinforce various concepts within the read text and also to emphasize the mythic quality of the story tracing the movement of the cosmos from inorganic life, to life, and to the human.  Following each book, participants discussed what they had heard.  Its significance for a new understanding of existence and an appreciation of the infinite eternal mystery of which we are all co-creating were also explored.

The film “The Human Search” reviewing the life of the late Dom Bede Griffiths, was shown as an example of the successful struggle to integrate existence through  the wisdoms of science and religion. The process of body/self/planet alienation, awakening and connection was traced to emphasize the importance for community healing through sharing of the story of our common heritage.  Two international grassroots movements for healing of community life were explored.  The ideology underlying the Earth Charter (all is one) and the methodology within the Foundation for Environmental Education (the interwoven issues of water, litter, energy and transportation) were reviewed as helpful resources for participants to engage with professionally  in the future.

Small group sharing helped build understanding

By the end of the workshop participants acknowledged a renewed sense of unity within the web of life and as participating within a 13.7 billion year cosmogenesis as co-creators. This awareness prompted hopeful messages offered for future generations and exploration of alternative ways of living together

Future workshops are planned to explore the journey of the Universe and formation of various community initiatives to heal communities.

Ananda is hospitality personified

Meals and refreshments were prepared by the team led by Sr Ananda, with some ingredients created from the ground of Maitreya.

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Water Shortages by 2050


AFP. March 29, 2011

WASHINGTON (AFP) – More than one billion urban residents will face serious water shortages by 2050 as climate change worsens effects of urbanization, with Indian cities among the worst hit, a study said Monday.

The shortage threatens sanitation in some of the world’s fastest-growing cities but also poses risks for wildlife if cities pump in water from outside, said the article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study found that under current urbanization trends, by mid-century some 993 million city dwellers will live with less than 100 liters (26 gallons) each day of water each — roughly the amount that fills a personal bathtub — which authors considered the daily minimum.

Adding on the impact of climate change, an additional 100 million people will lack what they need for drinking, cooking, cleaning, bathing and toilet use.

“Don’t take the numbers as destiny. They’re a sign of a challenge,” said lead author Rob McDonald of The Nature Conservancy, a private environmental group based near Washington.

“There are solutions to getting those billion people water. It’s just a sign that a lot more investment is going to be needed, either in infrastructure or in water use efficiency,” he said.

Currently, around 150 million people fall below the 100-liter threshold for daily water use. The average American has 376 liters delivered a day, although actual use varies widely depending on region, McDonald said.

But the world is undergoing an unprecedented urban shift as rural people in India, China and other growing nations flock to cities.

India’s six biggest cities — Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad — are among those most affected by water shortages. The study forecast that 119 million people would face water shortages in 2050 in the Ganges River delta and plain alone.

With an annual monsoon, India does not lack water. But it struggles to preserve the water from the wet season to the dry season, McDonald said.

West Africa, which sees some of the world’s heaviest rainfall, will also face water shortages in cities such as Lagos, Nigeria, and Cotonou in Benin, the study found.

The study warned of threats to ecosystems if developing nations take water from elsewhere. India’s Western Ghats region, a potential source for thirsty cities, is home to nearly 300 fish species, 29 percent of which are found nowhere else, it said.

“If cities are essentially drinking rivers dry, that has really bad effects on the fish and the reptiles and everything else in the river,” McDonald said.

Instead, the study recommended reforms to agriculture — usually the top consumer of water — and improved efficiency, as nearly half of the water in some poor countries is wasted due to leaks.

“There is a lot of potential for increase in water-use efficiency in the agriculture sector, or indeed in the residential sector, to solve most of this challenge,” McDonald said.

The study said there would be a need for international funding to help poorer nations “to ensure that urban residents can enjoy their fundamental right to adequate drinking water.”

UN-led talks last year on climate change agreed on practicalities to set up a global fund to assist poor nations most hit by climate change, with a target of 100 billion dollars a year starting in 2020.

Other cities forecast by the study to face a water crunch include Manila, Beijing, Lahore and Tehran.


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Carbon Finance in India

How Carbon Finance is making a difference. Also, inviting applications for the atmosfair India Renewable Energy Innovation awards

14 Mar 2011

In the Kolar district in Karnataka, a slow but radical transformation is taking place. The villagers are altering their source of energy. Century-old practices of using firewood for fuel and decade-old practices of using kerosene are being systematically replaced by sustainable and clean biogas. Innovative biogas digesters made from locally available materials are being implemented in a joint project between local NGO’S and – not international aid agencies – the German carbon offsetting company Atmosfair. Carbon credits provide the project partners with additional income, making the project feasible.

Carbon offsetting and skewed sustainability

Carbon offsetting projects are mostly known as large scale ventures, prevailing in India and China, used by western countries to offset the emissions they cannot (yet) avoid. One major shortcoming of the majority of carbon offsetting projects is their limited demarcation of sustainability. As clean energy seems to imply sustainable development, social and economic aspects that should be taken into regard for a full picture of sustainable development are neglected. The wellbeing of people affected by the projects is barely regarded. This bleak picture, however, is not the full portrait. Though small in numbers, strong efforts are being made to guide carbon funding in the direction of people working on projects that make a difference; a daily life difference in the lives of people who need it most.

There is much controversy questioning the ethics of offsetting with the common argument that it is reinforcing business-as-usual energy use in western countries and obstructing real change. Further controversies involve incidents of forces relocation of local residents as land for renewable energy projects is required and carbon funding used to implement energy efficiency regulations in what remain highly polluting new energy plants.

In current debates on the transformation to a low carbon economy, sustainability is so strongly associated with renewable energy that the social and economic aspects of genuine sustainable development are drowned out. This is reflected in the nature of carbon offsetting projects that have highly meticulous regulations to ensure high standard implementation of renewables. Social and economic impacts are treated as an occupational hazard, tested superficially, if at all, in order to get the paperwork through.

Critique of carbon offsetting is not without reason, but there is a need to also highlight efforts of organizations within in the sector that aim to guide carbon funding in the direction of people working on projects making difference in people’s daily lives, driven by a holistic and encompassing view of sustainability.

Encompassing people’s wellbeing in renewable energy projects

In  the Kolar district in Karnataka, Women for Sustainable Development and ADATS work together with the German carbon offsetting company Atmosfair to provide families with small biogas digesters, made of local materials. The digesters are fed agro-residues, mostly cow dung and the gas produced is used for cooking. This frees women from the cumbersome task of collecting wood and provides them with a much healthier cooking environment by heavily reducing the firewood smoke that causes Indoor Air Pollution. Of course, the replacement of wood as fuel by the clean and sustainable biogas also reduces carbon emission and deforestation. As Atmosfair’s other current projects in India, this project is developed as a Gold Standard carbon offsetting project.

The Gold Standard Foundation is a international non-profit organization based in Switzerland. They developed standards that complement the existing Kyoto and voluntary market requirements with strict measures to target the development of projects with a positive local impact. These can be both CDM Gold Standard projects as well as VER Gold Standard micro scale projects. Both facilitate locally run businesses and raise the quality of life of people in the project area. Atmosfair strictly supports Gold Standard projects.

India has huge potential to develop vast amounts of projects like the one in the Kolar district. Demand from abroad is rising. Moreover, the Indian industry is also exploring the options of carbon offsetting. In some cases due to the looming inclusion of airlines in the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). (In it, all aircraft operators flying in and out of Europe will need to conform to the set allowances, foremost by increasing energy efficiency, then by offsetting what is unavoidable though the acquisition of carbon credits). In other cases due to company policies to attain a green image or even become fully carbon neutral.

The atmosfair India Renewable Energy Innovation awards

Niiti consulting is a Bangalore based firm seeking to be change agents in the society. They partner with organizations interested or engaged in projects that aim to create a strong social impact by providing local sustainable solutions. Having realized the potential of carbon offsetting projects to make this impact, Niiti consulting has undertaken a feasibility study to determine the scalability potential of carbon offsetting projects with triple bottom line sustainability in India and to assess the demand for the investment potential for the same.  The study includes identification and assessment of suitable projects that meet the stringent Gold Standard criteria. In partnership with atmosfair, Niiti consulting has launched the atmosfair India Renewable Energy Innovation awards to promote the potential of high quality offsetting projects and provides them the opportunity to win additional funding and support.

The atmosfair India Renewable Energy Innovation awards are looking for  innovative proposals for existing projects, new projects or projects under incubation, that meet the following profile:

  • Reduce greenhouse gasses in India, preferably biogas, cook stoves,  waste  management, solar lamps, pump efficiency or solar water heating
  • Enhance the quality of life of people in the project area
  • Provide opportunities for economically viable, locally run businesses
  • Preferably, should be able to develop into a GS CDM/GS VER (Gold Standard Clean Development Mechanism/ Gold Standard Voluntary Emission Reduction) project

An award of 9 lakh INR is being offered for the best application. Moreover, the project will be able to gain 10-100% project support from atmosfair, depending on the technology used and the large-scale triple bottom line impact it creates in the destination.

To apply for the awards or for more information please go to If you would like to support the promotion of the awards and/or get updates on the awards as well as related topics you can follow the #atmawards hash or @niiticonsuting.

About the author: Mariska has a background in social sciences and sustainable tourism. She is currently part of the Niiti consulting team where she is contributing towards a feasibility study on the carbon offset market in India, with a focus on renewable energy projects with triple bottom line sustainability.

Also check out some other interesting such stories:

  1. Grassroots Innovation: Energy Efficient Oil Expeller
  2. Oorja Stove: Cleaner Energy for a Greener Planet
  3. Ecosphere Spiti: Social Innovation at the Foothills of Himalayas
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Word from Japan

Dear Friends,

Please see detailed email from a friend in Japan about the life now…and how the cosmic changes, behaviour patterns, living styles are changing for the better in the aftermath of Earth quake, Tsunami etc…Though they are short of material goods they seem to be coming to a new spirituality, with old community based living….

This is a live account from a citizen in Sendai, Japan,

Hope this helps us in a big way to redefine our life, and priorities…

Best Regards,


Subject: Spirit of Japan

Date: Tuesday, 22 March, 2011, 8:59 PM

Subject: Through a friend in Sendai, Japan.

Hello My Lovely Family and Friends,

First I want to thank you so very much for your concern for me. I am very touched. I also wish to apologize for a generic message to you all. But it seems the best way at the moment to get my message to you.

Things here in Sendai have been rather surreal. But I am very  blessed to have wonderful friends who are helping me a lot. Since my shack is even

more worthy of that name, I am now staying at a friend’s home. We share supplies like water, food and a kerosene heater. We sleep lined up in one room, eat by candlelight, share stories. It is warm, friendly, and beautiful.

During the day we help each other clean up the mess in our homes. People sit in their cars, looking at news on their navigation screens, or line up to get drinking water when a source is open. If someone has water running in their home, they put out sign so people can come to fill up their jugs  and buckets.

Utterly amazingly where I am there has been no looting, no pushing in lines. People leave their front door open, as it is safer when an earthquake strikes. People keep saying, “Oh, this is how it used to be in the old days when everyone helped one another.”

Quakes keep coming. Last night they struck about every 15 minutes. Sirens are constant and helicopters pass overhead often. We got water for a few hours in our homes last night, and now it is for  half a day. Electricity came on this afternoon. Gas has not yet come on. But all of this is by area.

Some people have these things, others do not.

No one has washed for several days. We feel grubby, but there are so much more important concerns than that for us now. I love this peeling away of non-essentials. Living fully on the level of instinct, of intuition, of caring, of what is needed for survival, not just of me, but of the entire group.

There are strange parallel universes happening. Houses a mess in some places, yet then a house with futons or laundry out drying in the sun.

People lining up for water and food, and yet a few people out walking their dogs. All happening at the same time.

Other unexpected touches of beauty are first, the silence at night. No cars. No one out on the streets. And the heavens at night are scattered  with stars. I usually can see about two, but now the whole sky is filled. The mountains are Sendai are solid and with the crisp air we can see them  silhouetted against the sky magnificently.

And the Japanese themselves are so wonderful. I come back to my shack to check on it each day, now to send this e-mail since the electricity is on, and I find food and water left in my entranceway. I have no idea from whom, but it is there. Old men in green hats go from door to door checking  to see if everyone is OK. People talk to complete strangers asking if they  need help. I see no signs of fear. Resignation, yes, but fear or panic, no.

They tell us we can expect aftershocks, and even other major quakes, for another month or more. And we are getting constant tremors, rolls, shaking, rumbling. I am blessed in that I live in a part of Sendai that is  a bit elevated, a bit more solid than other parts.

So, so far this area is  better off than others.  Last night my friend’s husband came in from the  country, bringing food and water. Blessed again.

Somehow at this time I realize from direct experience that there is indeed  an enormous Cosmic evolutionary step that is occurring all over the world  right at this moment. And somehow as I experience the events happening now  in Japan, I can feel my heart opening very wide. My brother asked me if I  felt so small because of all that is happening. I don’t. Rather, I feel as  part of something happening that much larger than myself. This wave of birthing (worldwide) is hard, and yet magnificent

Thank you again for your care and Love of me,

With Love in return, to you all,



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Program for Novices and Juniors, Bangalore

Program for Novices and Juniors – Bangalore, 8-14 April, 2011

We send you greetings from Maitreya Centre for Eco Justice and Eco Spirituality, not far from Meenakshi Temple on Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore.

Maitreya has been established by the Sisters of The Holy Cross as a centre that offers courses and workshops on Eco-spirituality and Eco-justice to all age-groups who are concerned about the impacts of climate change on our environment and society.

Alberto, Yanira, Luis, and Nivardo

As a practical contribution to the environmental education we have great pleasure in offering a short demonstration / lecture for Novices and Juniors by four young students from Panama, Mexico, Belize and El Salvador (accompanied by three environmental science graduates from St Joseph’s College, Bangalore). Alberto, Yanira, Luis and Nivardo would very much like to share concerns about climate change, the energy crisis and how we might, as a community and as individuals, do more to save on our use of electricity. What they have to say is important, even vital for today’s Religious. The team communicates their message through a lively presentation with Power Points. It takes about one hour. Our four presenters have been with Fr. Robert Athickal SJ at the now internationally recognised Tarumitra Centre in Patna for the last three months. They have gained high distinction as fine young people who communicate well in English and inspire the younger generation. Alberto, Yanira, Luis and Nivardo have presented this program to around five thousand students at over thirty schools!

Alberto, Nivardo, Luis, and Yanira - Building a smokeless chulha

This specially trained team from Tarumitra is available in Bangalore between April 8 – 14, 2011. The whole team will stay at Maitreya and can be contacted here.  If this does seem to be what you as a Novice Mistress or Master have been looking for as a help for your Novices and Juniors, and you have time free in your program between these dates, please don’t hesitate to call and make a booking with our Secretary Ms. Leena Lobo at 080 2658 3034. Our team is happy to come to you (especially if two or more communities could come together), or to arrange for a program here at Maitreya. You can also send an email to:

Please don’t delay as we believe Alberto, Yanira, Luis and Nivardo and our three graduates will be in a hurry to get the work underway. We hope to hear from you soon.

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