Curtain Raiser event for India-Africa International Millet Conference held at Nairobi, Kenya

To celebrate the International Year of Millets, Ministry of Agriculture and Famers Welfare, Government of India and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, Government of Kenya will be co-hosting the ‘India-Africa International Millet Conference’ in Kenya with support of International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). The international conference scheduled for 30-31 August 2023, will witness participation from government leaders, researchers, farmers, entrepreneurs and industry associations etc, from around the globe.

The official curtain raiser for ‘India-Africa International Millet Conference’ was held at Nairobi, Kenya recently, giving the audience a glimpse of what to expect.

The event was graced by the High Commissioner of India to Kenya, Joint Secretary (Crops), Government of India, Principal Secretary, Government of Kenya and Director General, ICRISAT. Officials from the agricultural sector of Kenya, members of the diplomatic community, international agricultural research leaders, farmers and representatives from the private sector also attended.

Through the international conference, the Government of India and Kenya aim to raise public awareness about millets as the ‘world’s emerging smart food. Additionally, the global event would also help highlight the South-South exchange and collaboration opportunities within the realm of millets.

With high levels of minerals such as iron, calcium, zinc and other vital nutrients, Millets are a treasure trove of health benefits. Additionally, they are also drought-resistant, pest-resilient, climate-friendly crops that can boost income opportunities and livelihoods of smallholder farmers, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

The Curtain Raiser event commenced with Dr. Jacqueline Hughes, DG ICRISAT, briefing the audience about the agenda of the event. While enumerating the multiple benefits of millets, she spoke about the growing discourse around mechanization, seed systems, digital agriculture and value addition in millets. “We need to strengthen the value chains of millets to ensure consumer demand which will then assure farmers of profitable markets”, Dr. Hughes noted.

In her inaugural address, Shubha Thakur, JS (Crops), Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India, noted how the conference would help highlight actionable strategies by leaders, investors, institutions and individuals, while serving as a medium for joint ventures, collaborations, and tech transfer among key stakeholders. “The Government of India, in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Millets Research, has been addressing concerns related to millet farming since 2018, when India celebrated its National Year of Millets. Acting on India’s proposal, the United Nations General Assembly declared the year 2023 as the ‘International Year of Millets’, giving these ancient grains a global platform. Our focus has been on ensuring sustainable agricultural practices and enhancing the commercial viability of millet cultivation, “Thakur added.

In her welcome address, HE Namgya Khampa, the High Commissioner of India to Kenya, highlighted the importance of millets in addressing the issues of malnutrition and global hunger. Speaking about the significance of South-South cooperation in agriculture, HE Namgya Khampa also stated, “We believe that collaboration between the global South in agriculture is crucial for maintaining food sufficiency in our countries.”

Following his remarks, Mr. Phillip Kello Harsama, Principal Secretary for Agriculture, Government of Kenya, further emphasized the significance of millets in the economic advancement of smallholder farmers. Since millets require minimal inputs and can be grown in relatively shorter duration, Kenyan farmers can benefit immensely from these wonder grains and add to their income, he noted.

One of the key highlights of the Curtain Raiser event was the unveiling of the logo and website of the India-Africa International Millet Conference. The website will enable participants to register for the conference and learn more about the global event and Millets in general.

The unveiling was followed by an insightful panel discussion on ‘Promoting Millets in Africa and India’ moderated by Dr. Rebbie Harawa, Regional Director & Country Representative, Kenya at ICRISAT. Distinguished panelists included the Director General of Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), the President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and representatives from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) and private sector.

The event concluded with a round of interaction with the media, and remarks by the Deputy High Commissioner, Kenya.

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