The Federation of Tamil Nadu Agriculturists Associations has urged the State government to promote small millets and palm jaggery in a big way to change the food habits of people. The cultivation of these crops would also help in reducing water consumption while improving the health of the consumers, the federation said.
A resolution to this effect was adopted at a consultative meeting of the federation held here on Wednesday, chaired by its secretary S Nallasami. Representatives of various farmers associations from across the State participated in the meet. Nallasami said 50 years back, only the delta districts in the State were producing rice while small millets such as ragi, cholam, varagu, samai and kambu were produced in other districts. Due to the changing lifestyle, rice had become the staple food in all districts now. As the water required for cultivating one acre of paddy could be utilised to cultivate three acres of small millets, the focus on rice cultivation had impacted the water budget leading to water scarcity and social unrest. The federation also attributed the change in food habits and water consumption pattern for farming as the main reasons for the inter-state water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, over sharing Cauvery water.
The federation said, in the past, palm jaggery used to be people’s favourite when the drought-resistant palm trees used to supply this natural food supplement. When the cash crop sugarcane was introduced, it brought changes among the people to switch over from the natural palm jaggery to white sugar. When people were eating small millets and palm jaggery they were healthy and there was no water scarcity. When they migrated to rice and sugar, all kinds of issues started, they said. The meeting urged the State government to devise suitable plans to help farmers get back to cultivating small millets and palm jaggery so that water disputes and public health issues could be tackled. Small millets should also be distributed to the people through the PDS network, the meeting insisted.
While the State government had declared all the districts as drought-hit, the meeting observed that this was the perfect time to desilt all reservoirs and water bodies before the onset of the monsoon. It was pointed out that the water bodies should be desilted during drought period with the help of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. The meet also called upon the State to ban sand mining in all the riverbeds.