Blog of Liliana Mosca, SI UN Representative at the FAO, Rome.
Each year, the UN identifies a key food for the sustainable development of the Planet, and to which it dedicates 365 days of activities and awareness raising initiatives. The 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, held in March 2021, declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets (#IYM2023).
Of all foods, this cereal was chosen to encourage people, all over the world, to make use of it. Millet is not a new or recently discovered cereal; rather, it is a member of the grass family and has been consumed by humans as far back as 8000 years ago in Northern China and India, where this vital food source has been an important source of nourishment for millions of people as well as fodder for cattle and other livestock. The most widely grown millets: “sorghum” and “pearl millets” however, have never quite reached the popularity of other, more widely known cereals, such as wheat, corn, or rice.
This factor, in particular, plays to the disadvantage of millet as a food source, however it is by reversing this condition that the UN wishes to encourage more widespread growth of millet. Notably, because millet has been identified as a valuable ally in the fight against world hunger, since it is able to grow on arid lands with minimal inputs and maintenance, whilst also being resilient to the shocks and stresses brought about by climate change. In a word, it is a very resilient crop.
Millet provides an affordable and nutritious option and can play an important role in contributing to the collective efforts of global organisations to:
- Empower smallholder farmers;
- Achieve sustainable development
- Eliminate hunger
- Adapt to climate change
- Promote biodiversity, and
- Transform agrifood systems
At the Launch Ceremony for the IYM 2023, held on 6 December 2022, Director-General Qu announced that the FAO, as the lead UN agency in efforts to improve food security and defeat hunger, will facilitate the implementation of the IYM 2023 with the support of governments, organisations, and agencies of the United Nations system, as well as other international and regional organisations and relevant stakeholders, including civil society, the private sector and academia.
The Director General in his opening remarks said that IYM2023: “provides a unique opportunity to raise awareness of, and to direct policy attention to:
- The nutritional and health benefits of millet consumption;
- The suitability of millets for cultivation under adverse and changing climatic conditions, and;
- creating sustainable and innovative market opportunities for many countries around the world for millets to benefit farmers and consumers globally.”
In closing, Qu asked the participants to “work together in an efficient, effective and coherent manner to ensure that the International Year of Millets 2023 is successful, with fruitful actions and impactful outcomes”.
To learn more about the International Year of Millets 2023, visit the FAO webpage for this event, here.