What are Millets?

What are Millets?

Jan 17, 2024

Millets, a diverse group of small-seeded cereals, have been fundamental to global agriculture for millennia. This group includes various species like pearl, proso, foxtail, barnyard, and finger millets, alongside less common ones such as fonio, sorghum, and teff. Not just a source of carbohydrates, millets are rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, proteins, and essential minerals like iron. Remarkably resilient, they grow in poor soil conditions, are resistant to many diseases and pests, and can endure harsh climates. This makes them a vital crop for combating food scarcity and for sustainable land rejuvenation and biodiversity conservation.

Culinary-wise, millets are incredibly versatile. Their subtly nutty taste complements both sweet and savory dishes, offering a wide spectrum of flavors and textures. They hold a special place in various traditional and indigenous cuisines and serve as a gluten-free alternative, beneficial for those with gluten sensitivities or coeliac disease.

Economically, millets present exciting opportunities. Their genetic diversity opens avenues for income generation in local communities and enhances food system value chains. Advances in millet production and food technology promise new market prospects, benefiting producers and consumers alike.

The United Nations General Assembly designated 2023 as the International Year of Millets (IYM 2023), recognizing their importance in promoting healthy diets and ensuring food security under challenging conditions. IYM 2023 is a call to action, aiming to increase awareness of millets' benefits, from nutrition and sustainability to economic and social development. It encourages collaborative efforts between science and policy, fosters partnerships, and motivates stakeholders to advocate for and produce millets.

In celebration of IYM 2023, the FAO initiated a Global Chefs Challenge on Instagram, inviting chefs and cooking enthusiasts worldwide to exhibit their creativity with millet-based dishes.