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Promoting Millet Consumption: Inauguration of First Millet Cafe by SHG women in Hura, Purulia….

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Staff Reporter : Purulia, 17th December 2023 – In a landmark initiative towards sustainable agriculture and community empowerment, the first Millet Cafe of Purulia was inaugurated at the Hura Block Office. Spearheaded by Self-Help Group (SHG) women of PalliSebikaMahilaSamiti promoted under the AnandadharaPrakalpa of West Bengal State Rural Livelihoods Mission (WBSRLM), this Millet Cafe has been supported by SwitchON Foundation, who has been working with the SHG groups to grow, process, cook and set up the millet cafe by capacity building through workshops and training. By focusing on millet-based offerings, the initiative not only promotes healthy eating but also contributes to the revival of indigenous crops, aligning with broader agricultural sustainability goals.

This milestone inauguration event was witnessed by local leaders, community members, and largely by the Government Block officials. The event was attended byShriArikul Islam, WBCS(Exe)- BDO Hura Block.

Mr. Vinay Jaju, Managing Director, SwitchON Foundation stated,“ I feel proud to witness the first Magic Millet Cafe that will be entirely run by our SHG didis. This effort will promote the adoption of millet- based food within our community.” He further added, “I would like to extend immense thanks to the Government of West Bengal for promoting millets in the state. This Millet Cafe led by our dedicated SHG didis, will not only serve nourishing meals but also open opportunities for growth and sustainability. We aim to strengthen the millet value chain and revive millets as an essential component of local and global food systems.”

The canteen will be managed by skilled SHG members who are master trainers trained by the SwitchON Foundation. SwitchON built the capacity of the SHG members by actively participating in various events, workshops, cooking competitions, operating stalls, food festivals etc. making them confident enough to take up work independently. A food tasting event was also organized at the DRDC office, Purulia, where government representatives from different departments tasted millet based foods and liked it. Thus came the idea to set up a Millet Cafe in the existing canteen of the Hura Block Office to serve millet – based dishes such as RagiLaddu, RagiMalpua, Barnyard millet Khir, Foxtail millet khichdi. The whole idea was carefully crafted with sustainability in mind. The cafe will not only serve as a culinary hub but also as a platform for skill development, as SHG Didi’s will actively participate in the preparation and management of the cafe, thereby enhancing their entrepreneurial skills.

Shri Arikul Islam, WBCS(Exe)- BDO Hura said, “We are thrilled to have the Millet Cafe at our block office, run by the SHG women entrepreneurs. I congratulate PalliSebikaMahilaSamiti SHG group and SwitchON Foundation for their efforts. Millets are highly nutritious but at the same time it has not come to the mainstream yet. An integrated approach is required to promote these wonder grains. I congratulate SwitchON and the SHG women for their effort to bring millets back to our diet.”

One of the SHG didis, Ms. DeepaliMahato expressed her happiness, “I am quite excited to prepare and serve different millet recipes like millet ladoo, kheer, fritters, malpua, khichdi and many more. I want to thank AnandadharaPrakalpo under WBSRLM and SwitchON Foundation for training us and giving this opportunity to showcase our ability.”

As part of its Millet-reviving initiatives, SwitchON Foundation facilitated the distribution and cultivation of pearl millet especially in rain-fed areas where rice cultivation was not suitable in the clusters of Bankura and Purulia districts in West Bengal. Millets were part of their diet before rice and wheat cultivation had taken over. It is an effort to make the communities go back to their roots which are climate-resilient and ensure food security too. This was accompanied by essential handholding support to approximately 500 farmers, facilitating the cultivation of Finger Millets (Ragi) and Pearl Millet (Bajra) over 150 acres of land in Purulia and Bankura, West Bengal, in collaboration with West Bengal State Rural Livelihood Mission (WBSRLM).

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