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Meet the “Queen of Millets”, a tribal woman who preserves 30 types of rare millets in India – Times of India

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Raimati Ghiuria is often called the “Queen of Millets” and rightly so. She has not only grown and preserved 30 varieties of rare millets but has also trained hundreds of women in cultivating these nutritious grains.
The recent G20 Summit, attended by delegates from countries like Australia, China, Italy, and the European Union, included an exceptional guest—Raimati Ghiuria from the simple village of Koraput in Odisha, India.

It is noted that over the years, the people have moved from having millets to more widely sold rice and wheat. To address this concern, tribal farmers are taking a stand to commemorate the International Year of Millets, aiming to revive interest in these native yet often overlooked grains.

In a surprising turn of events, Raimati was invited to participate in a session at the G20 Summit held on September 9, 2023. Leaving her small village, she actively engaged in the summit, earning the title “Queen of Millet” from her village residents, who were thrilled to see her pictures with so many people.

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During the G20 Summit, Raimati had the opportunity to meet President Draupadi Murmu. She has preserved at least 72 traditional paddy varieties and 30 varieties of millets, including Kundra Bati, Mandia, Jasra, Juana, and Jamkoli.

Remarkably, one of Raimati’s millet varieties is set to be officially released by the Odisha government. Despite achieving so much, Raimati, who only studied until class 7, credits her knowledge to practical experience gained in the field.

When asked about her inspiration, Raimati mentioned Kamala Pujari, a 70-year-old woman honoured with the Padma Shri for conserving hundreds of paddy seed varieties throughout her life. Despite marrying at the age of 16, Raimati never lost interest in farming, continuing to collect and preserve millets.

Currently cultivating millets on her four acres of land, Raimati employs better technology and scientific methods, significantly improving the yield and quality of her millet farming.

With the guidance of Padma Shri Kamala Pujari, Raimati joined forces with a non-profit organization called MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) based in Chennai. MSSRF aims to create and promote strategies for economic growth, specifically focusing on increasing employment opportunities for disadvantaged women in rural areas.

Since the year 2000, the foundation has assisted Raimati in adopting scientific conservation methods. These include the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), the line transplanting method for paddy cultivation, the Seed Multiplication Index (SMI), and the line transplanting method for finger millets. Additionally, she has been making use of bio inputs to encourage organic farming practices.

To expand on her efforts, Raimati has taken the initiative to train 2,500 other farmers in her community to adopt millet farming techniques.

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Known as the ‘Millet Queen’ of Odisha, Raimati emphasizes the significance of millets in their daily meals. Millets, such as finger millet (mandia), are used to make chapatis, snacks like dosa, and porridge consumed during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Raimati expresses that while they can go a day without rice, millets serve as a vital energy source, providing strength for her fieldwork.

During the G20 Summit, Raimati shared insights into the culinary delights crafted from millets. Millet cultivation has been a transformative experience for her, leading her to lead a self-help group of women farmers and farmer-producer companies. They process millets into value-added products like pakoras and laddus, which are sold at local markets and tiffin centres in the Kundra block.

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Raimati has also played a crucial role in establishing a farm school in her village, contributing her ancestral family land for this purpose since 2012. Through this school, she actively trains individuals in the scientific practice of millet farming, helping them earn a better income through value addition.

In recognition of her outstanding work, Raimati has been honoured with the title ‘Millet Queen’ at the state level. She received the Best Farmer Award from ICAR – IISWC, Sunabeda, in 2016, and the Best Farmer Award at the Traditional Food Festival by TATA Steel, Nuamundi, in 2018. Raimati expresses that the national-level recognition not only garnered immense respect from her in-laws but also from global leaders. This recognition motivates her to conserve more millet varieties and continue making her state proud.

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