Millets are a type of ancient grain that humanity has cultivated for over 10,000 years. These hardy, dryland crops include pearl, finger, foxtail and proso millets, which are grown across South Asia and Africa, as well as in Eurasia, North America and Australia.
But despite being climate-resilient and nutritious, they’re in steady decline and often overlooked for more commercial crops. Experts warn that we must act quickly to conserve the diversity of the world’s millets before it is lost forever.
Millets are high in micronutrients and fiber, gluten-free and have a low glycemic index, with a higher nutritional content than refined cereals such as rice, wheat or corn. They can also grow in very difficult, dry conditions with poor soils and at temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius – which makes them a prime candidate for feeding tomorrow’s hotter world.
However, millets are difficult to process, and while more reliable than most other crops from year to year, their productivity can be low overall, especially under unpredictable conditions caused by the climate crisis. Still, experts believe millets can play a huge part in filling nutritional gaps in the global food systems – if get the care they need.
The United Nations has declared 2023 the International Year of Millets (IYM). Here on GLF Live, we close off the year with this live-streamed conversation, hosted in collaboration with the Crop Trust, where we’re joined by scientist Chrispus Oduori and chef Wisdom Abiro to learn how we can bring these precious crops back to the mainstream.
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Dr. Chrispus Oduori holds a PhD in plant breeding from the University of KwaZulu Natal’s African Center for Crop Improvement, an MSc in plant breeding from Mississippi State University and a BSc in biochemistry and botany from the University of Nairobi. Dr. Oduori has 34 years of experience in finger millet research and management and pioneered finger millet hybridization breeding in Africa. He has successfully made wild x-adapted crosses with the support of the Crop Trust, releasing and promoting nine varieties in Kenya.
Chef Wisdom Abiro is a chef from northern Ghana with a passion for highlighting the culinary, health and environmental value of his communities’ foods and knowledge. As an Indigenous advocate, Wisdom’s mission revolves around promoting northern Ghanaian cuisine for its health benefits and climate resilience, including millets fonio, pearl millet and sorghum as crucial staples to strengthen food security.
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