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India: Odisha Women Entrepreneurs Boost Student Nutrition in 55 Schools with Millet Meals

India: Odisha Women Entrepreneurs Boost Student Nutrition in 55 Schools with Millet Meals

Media Release

Over 3,600 students enrolled in 55 government-run schools in the Koraput district of Odisha are now enjoying more nutritious mid-day meals featuring finger millet-based meals upma (porridge), khichdi (millet and lentils) and sweet dishes, designed to boost nutritional intake thanks to an innovative collaboration.

The newly inaugurated millet-based secondary food processing unit, initiated by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in partnership with the Odisha Livelihoods Mission (OLM) and the Department of Mission Shakti in Semiliguda, Koraput, is enhancing the nutritional well-being of children across four gram panchayats – or local self-government bodies in India at the rural level – Talagoluru, Kotia, Ampaballi, and Peteru.

Simultaneously, it has nurtured a vibrant business ecosystem for women entrepreneurs there.

Committed to a monthly production of 1,200 kg for each product, the millet processing unit provides cost-effective and nutritious meals to children aged 5-15.

This initiative broadens their nutritional choices beyond traditional rice, pulses, soybean, and egg-based meals.

During the inauguration ceremony held at Government High School in Ampaballi on the 11th September 2023, Mr. Pitam Padhi, Member of the Legislative Assembly of Odisha, commended the initiative.

“Finger Millet is grown extensively in Koraput and has long served as a dietary staple in tribal communities in this region.
"This initiative represents a significant effort to reconnect with our heritage while encouraging healthier dietary choices among our children" said Mr. Padhi.

After trying a sweet millet dish, a student named Raja expressed his delight, calling it delicious and unlike any millet-based product he had ever tasted.

As the initiative gains momentum, the State Government aims to further its reach and assist more students in the Koraput district.


Dr. Jacqueline Hughes, Director General of ICRISAT, praised the collaboration for its contribution to improving economic opportunities and enhancing children's nutrition.

“As we mark the International Year of Millets 2023, this initiative stands as beacon of success, bolstering local economies and kindling optimism within millet-growing tribal farmers, women entrepreneurs, and schoolchildren.
“Beyond fortifying school meal programs, it charts a course towards a healthier and more prosperous future for the region” said Dr Hughes.

Revolutionizing Nutrition with Convenience

ICRISAT has scientifically validated and developed three ready-to-cook finger millet-based products enriched with other nourishing ingredients such as foxtail millet, groundnut, pulses, and jaggery, offering a well-balanced and nutritious dietary option.

“Utilizing innovative millet processing technologies ensures that these products are not only calorie-dense but also optimize the absorption of minerals and vitamins.
"They are easily digestible and, most importantly, appealing to children,” said Dr Saikat Mazumdar, Cluster Leader, Nutrition, Dietary Behaviour and Smart Food, ICRISAT.

Moreover, both ready-to-cook traditional and finger millet-based khichdi, upma, and sweet meals can be conveniently prepared in just 15 minutes by adding water and boiling.

Boosting Millet Cultivation

Dr. ML Jat, Global Research Program Director, Resilient Farm and Food Systems, ICRISAT said that for building resilience and nutritional security, there is a renewed emphasis on the cultivation of millets globally.

“The Government of Odisha is promoting millets through its dedicated millet mission.
"By harnessing entrepreneurship opportunities within local communities through millet-based secondary food processing units, we aim to stimulate local demand for millets, thereby fostering increased millet cultivation within the state," ​ said Dr Jat.
Mr Ranendra Pratap Swain, Agriculture Minister of Odisha, India, and his team visited the millet processing unit in Semiliguda, Koraput, on August 16, 2023.
Mr Ranendra Pratap Swain, Agriculture Minister of Odisha, India, and his team visited the millet processing unit in Semiliguda, Koraput, on August 16, 2023.

Uplifting Rural Livelihoods

Earlier in August, Shri Ranendra Pratap Swain, the Honourable Agriculture Minister of Odisha, visited the unit and commended ICRISAT's efforts to uplift rural livelihoods.

Minister Swain assured support for the Unit's success and said that a steady stream of orders for millet-based food products would be important to realize the full potential of such a state-of-the-art processing unit.

This millet-based processing unit, licensed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), operates nutri-mix and bakery processing lines, producing ready-to-cook and bakery products centred around millets.

It was established to empower local entrepreneurship, particularly among women and youth, while championing affordable nutrition for tribal and rural communities. Local self-help groups manage the processing unit, having undergone comprehensive training from ICRISAT in processing techniques, food safety protocols, quality management systems, and effective marketing strategies.

This work aligns with UN SDGs 1, 2 and 17

Ramon Peachey
Ramon Peachey Director of Communications


About The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is a pioneering International Organization committed to developing and improving dryland farming and agri-food systems to address the challenges of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and environmental degradation affecting the 2.1 billion people residing in the drylands of Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and beyond.

ICRISAT was established under a Memorandum of Agreement between the Government of India and the CGIAR on the 28 March 1972. In accordance with the Headquarters Agreement, the Government of India has extended the status of a specified “International Organisation” to ICRISAT under section 3 of the United Nations (Privileges and Immunities) Act, 1947 of the Republic of India through Extraordinary Gazette Notification No. UI/222(66)/71, dated 28 October 1972, issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.

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The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics
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