India’s quest to end world hunger

It may not make his family wealthy, but Devran Mankar is still grateful for the pearl millet variety called Dhanshakti (meaning “prosperity and strength”) he has recently begun growing in his small field in the state of Maharashtra, in western India.

“Since eating this pearl millet, the children are rarely ill,” raves Mankar, a slim man with a gray beard, worn clothing and gold-rimmed glasses.

 Mankar and his family are participating in a large-scale nutrition experiment.

He is one of about 30,000 small farmers growing the variety, which has unusually high levels of iron and zinc — Indian researchers bred the plant to contain large amounts of these elements in a process they call “biofortification.”

The grain is very nutritional,” says the Indian farmer, as his granddaughter Kavya jumps up and down in his lap. It’s also delicious, he adds. “Even the cattle like the pearl millet.”

Mankar’s field on the outskirts of the village of Vadgaon Kashimbe is barely 100 meters (328 feet) wide and 40 meters long.

The grain will be ripe in a month, and unless there is a hailstorm — may Ganesha, the elephant god, prevent that from happening — he will harvest about 350 kilograms of pearl millet, says the farmer. It’s enough for half a year.

The goal of the project, initiated by the food aid organisation Harvest Plus, is to prevent farmers like Mankar and their families from going hungry in the future.

In fact, the Dhanshakti pearl millet is part of a new “Green Revolution” with which biologists and nutrition experts hope to liberate the world from hunger and malnutrition. Continue reading.

Source: Spiegel Online

Image: AFP

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