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Karbi Anglong farmers revive millet farming tradition

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HT Bureau
DIPHU, Sept 10: In response to the government’s push to promote millet cultivation, local farmers in Karbi
Anglong are increasingly turning to millet farming. Among them, Thengklong Rongpi of Hidisajir has taken up
millet cultivation alongside a mix of indigenous vegetables and spices.
Last Saturday, this reporter visited Thengklong Rongpi’s farmland in Hidisajir, on the outskirts of Diphu town,
where he has been growing millet. Thengklong, who began millet cultivation last year as part of mixed cropping
with paddy, has now expanded to three bighas (a unit of land measurement).
Discussing his millet cultivation, Thengklong explained, “Last year, I started growing millet alongside paddy in a
small area. This year, I expanded to three bighas. Due to the soil’s extreme dryness during the sowing season, the
millet seeds didn’t germinate in some areas. There are different types of millets like Foxtail Millet (Kakum/Kangni),
Finger Millet (Ragi), Sorghum Millet (Jowar), Pearl Millet (Bajra), Little Millet (Moraiyo), and Proso Millet
(Chena/Barri). However, I am cultivating Foxtail Millet, which is a local variety.”
Thengklong’s decision to cultivate millet was motivated by a desire to revive old traditions. In the past, the older
generation of Karbi people cultivated various millets, along with paddy and spices, using the jhum (slash-and-burn)
cultivation method in the hills. These millets, alongside rice and maize, were staples of their diet. Thengklong aims
to revive this tradition.
He mentioned that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millet to encourage
increased millet production, and people should support this initiative.
Millet, unlike paddy, requires less water and can thrive in dry and high-temperature conditions. It has a short
growing season and high productivity. Millet is also rich in nutrients, containing iron, protein, fibre, and minerals
like calcium and magnesium. Its low glycaemic index makes it suitable for individuals with high blood sugar levels,
and it is an excellent source of dietary fibre that helps lower bad cholesterol.
Thengklong dries the harvested millets by hanging them in bunches on bamboo poles at home. He has not yet
considered selling the harvested millets in the market but plans to sell them in bunches to those in need of seeds. He
sells one bunch for Rs 100. Thengklong expressed his interest in providing seeds to individuals looking to take up
millet cultivation and plans to focus solely on millet farming in a larger area next year.

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