Empowering Rural Women through Millets: Odisha’s Mission Shakti Revolution
From upscale hotels to the esteemed menu of the White House, Mandia (millets), the traditional food of Odisha, has emerged as a new trend in the food industry. Beyond merely preserving the rich culinary heritage of the state, this culinary movement has also paved the way for financial independence for numerous rural women. The Department of Agriculture and Farmers Empowerment, in collaboration with the hotel industry, has taken the initiative to include Mandia in their offerings for both domestic and foreign tourists. A recent crucial meeting took place between the Odisha Millet Mission and the Hotel and Restaurant Association (HARO), with the Chief Administrative Secretary of the department, Arvind Padi, lending his presence and underscoring the significant role played by the hotel industry in promoting Mandia. Discussions also revolved around the envisioned future steps to further this mission.
Whether it’s served as a cooked delicacy or in its dry form, Mandia food holds a special place for women in Odisha. Currently, 1844 women’s self-help groups in the state have achieved self-reliance through their involvement in the Millet industry. Among these groups, 611 are engaged in using thresher machines for micronutrient processing; 24 operate Ragi (2 deck) processing units; and 8 run Ragi (3 deck) processing units. Additionally, 716 women SHGs are actively involved in operating Pulvizer machines, while one SHG is dedicated to cleaning small food grains. Notably, 173 women self-help group members are playing a significant role in food distribution, offering direct employment to 1730 people.
The efforts of the Odisha Millet Mission have borne fruit, with a notable presence of 156 Millet Shakti tiffin centres, 4 mobile Millet Shakti outlets, 7 Millet Shakti Cafes, and 6 Millet Shakti outlets across the state. Each Millet Shakti outlet boasts an impressive turnover of at least one lakh rupees per month.
In the month of May, the combined success of 7 Millet Shakti Cafes and 6 Millet Shakti outlets in 14 different locations, including districts such as Puri, Cuttack, Sundergarh, Keonjhar, Nuapada, Khurda, Ganjam, Angul, Balangir, and Kalahandi, surpassed half a million in business transactions. Prema Das of Sundergarh Dibyajyot Women’s Maha Sangh expressed her gratitude to the Odisha Millet Mission, as their support since 2019 has empowered them to earn over one and a half crore rupees annually. Their nutritious products have even found their way to places like Goa, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Paris, attracting learners from states like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
Similarly, the mothers of Shaktimayi Women’s Maha Sangh in Bhubaneswar’s rental colony have embraced self-reliance through the preparation of nutrient-rich food items at the first Millet Shakti outlet located on the premises of Prashik Bhawan, made possible by the Odisha Millet Mission and Mission Shakti. Editor Padmalaya Mohanty commends their outlet on the premises of Charrishi Bhavan, where sales of at least 4.5 thousand rupees per day have led to a monthly business of 1.5 million rupees, providing them with financial independence.
The Millet Mission in the state has successfully established a total of 7 Mission Shakti Cafes, with the Keonjhar Millet Shakti Cafe garnering special recognition as the finest among them. Located within the premises of the Keonjhar District Collector’s office, this cafe offers a delightful array of South Indian breakfast dishes while ensuring they cater to the local Odia taste. Additionally, the cafe features unique delicacies like Mandir Pod and Kaka Pie. Notably, the cafe witnessed business transactions worth 63 thousand rupees in May and 73 thousand rupees in June. Ganga Singh, President of Krishna Women’s Self Help Group, highlights the cafe’s role in creating new opportunities for numerous women’s self-help groups in the state, drawing the attention of both local patrons and foreign tourists.
Another shining example of Mission Shakti’s success is evident in the Mission Shakti Cafe situated in the Rajkanika area of Kendrapada district. Operated by the Pratibha Shakti Block Level Federation and affiliated with Mission Shakti, this cafe has received unwavering support from both the district and block administrations. This backing includes substantial financial assistance, with Rs. 9 lakh provided by the district administration and an additional Rs. 5 lakh from the revolving fund of the block level federation. As a result, the cafe has become an essential avenue for members to achieve financial independence.
The cafe has played a crucial role in catering fresh and healthy food to various meetings conducted at the block level. Moreover, it has even ventured into exporting food for special government programs, further amplifying its impact. To maintain the highest standards, members of the Block Level Federation regularly visit the cafe to inspect the food quality. In August 2021, the cafe recorded an impressive total earning of 3,00,000 rupees. After accounting for all expenses, the cafe’s members were able to enjoy a profit of 30 thousand rupees. The success of this cafe serves as a beacon of inspiration, exemplifying how Mission Shakti has empowered communities, creating a pathway to financial growth and self-reliance.
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.