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Have you been busy coming up with New Year’s resolutions the past few weeks? We’ve got a fun one for you to add to the list! The United Nations has declared 2023 the International Year of Millets and we think this is a great excuse to start cooking and eating more millet. Will you join us in adding “try one new millet recipe each month” to your list of goals for the new year?
Despite the fact that millets have been a nutritional staple in diets throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia for thousands of years, the UN has noted that their cultivation is declining in many countries just as their potential to address climate change and food security is beginning to come to light. Millets have some of the lowest water requirements of any grain crop (and grains as a group require signiﬁcantly less water than just about any other agricultural crop). Millets are also quite tolerant of extreme heat and drought, two characteristics that make them well-suited to our changing climate. The UN states, “millets can grow on relatively poor soils and under adverse and arid conditions, with comparatively fewer inputs than other cereals.”
This yearlong celebration of millets was brought forward by the Government of India and has gained support and endorsement from numerous other nations and members of the Food and Agriculture Organization. The UN believes that the International Year of Millets “stands to provide a unique opportunity to increase global production, ensure eﬃcient processing and consumption, promote better utilization of crop rotations, and encourage better connectivity throughout food systems to promote millets as a key component of the food basket.” The fact that millets are almost always consumed in their whole grain form means that the activities promoting this event will have the added beneﬁt of making an impact on whole grain consumption.
The UN’s goals for the year are to “(i) elevate awareness of the contribution of millets for food security and nutrition (ii) inspire stakeholders on improving sustainable production and quality of millets; and (iii) draw focus for enhanced investment in research and development and extension services to achieve the other two aims.” While much of the UN’s activities are focused in Africa and Asia, North America is no stranger to millets. The North American Millets Association is planning several regional events and activities aiming to increase awareness and interest in millets in North America, so keep an eye out for more information about ways you can get involved.
Quinoa sales and recognition soared after the UN’s 2013 Year of Quinoa, and we look forward to seeing 2023 have a similar impact for millets.
Interested in trying a millet recipe? We highly recommend Millet-Cauliﬂower “Mashed Potatoes,” a simple, comforting side dish that is sure to warm you up on these chilly winter evenings. (Caroline)