Arka Pudota is on a mission to bring back millets to the mainstream by raising awareness about their consumption and production.
When I was in Class 10, all that I was worried about was passing my board exams with a good percentage, and fortunately, things worked out in my favour.
When I look back on those days, I realise that my life rarely stretched beyond the school-tuitions-exams routine.
In sharp contrast, many of today’s driven youngsters are an inspired (and inspiring) lot. They attend school, but also utilise their spare time to come up with fantastic initiatives which make an impact.
Bengaluru boy Arka Pudota is one amongst them.
The 15-year-old has embarked on a mission to bring back millets to the mainstream by raising awareness about their consumption and production.
So, how does he do this?
Well, Arka has started a channel named ‘Millet Mantra’ on YouTube, where he creates and shares videos on millets.
From nutritious and delicious millet recipes to educational videos on the different types of millets grown in India, the channel is perhaps the best go-to guide on millets in India.
Arka spent most of 2018 dedicatedly building the channel, and today, it has over 500 subscribers!
Interestingly, the young champ was inspired by his elder brother, Arya who had become an organic farming educator through YouTube while studying in school.
His story was covered by The Better India two years ago, and you can read about his amazing journey here.
“The videos that my brother was making sensitised me to the struggles being faced by our farmers. I wanted to know why so many of them were taking their lives and started looking up every piece of information that I could find. While crop failure was the primary reason, I wanted to dig up more,” says the student of National Public School in Indiranagar.
He focussed his research on Karnataka and found out that rice and wheat were the main crops grown in the region, and the farmers growing them were the ones who suffered constant crop failures.
“In a state like Karnataka where aridity is quite widespread, growing water-intensive crops like rice and wheat is quite problematic—they should not be grown. Millets used to be the staple food of the region. However, the rising availability of rice and wheat resulted in them getting sidelined, especially in urban areas,” explains Arka.
Upon further research, Arka observed that this gradual shift posed two issues.
“First, cereal grains tend to have a high glycemic index and low satiety index, which results in higher calorie consumption, and greater spikes in blood glucose levels; causing diseases like obesity, and increasing the risk of diabetes. Secondly, to support the growing demand for cereal crops like rice and wheat, farmers are being put under increasing stress to produce more. Cereal crops require a lot more water to grow than millets, and are far more sensitive to drought conditions, especially in arid areas. Crop failure rates are far higher in this case, and it places enormous economic stress on poor farmers who own small pieces of land in India,” explains Arka.
All this research happened when Arka was a Class 9 student, and he felt an overwhelming urge to raise awareness on the plight of farmers.
With inspiration right at home, he decided to go the YouTube way with a two-pronged plan in mind.
“I understood that awareness was the key to increasing the demand for millets amongst the urban population. But to make sure that would happen, I had to figure out a way that not only had recall value but also something that would interest people to at least give them a try. So, I started with videos on tasty and nutritious dishes made from different types of millets like jowar (sorghum), foxtail millet and ragi (finger millet),” remembers Arka.
Arka was dumbfounded at the stupendous response that his videos received on both YouTube and Facebook.
“People began reaching out to me for more recipes. It was incredibly motivating. That’s when I thought that I shouldn’t just make videos about how to consume millets but also expand their scope to include its different types. beThis would particularly prove beneficial for those who want to shift towards a healthier lifestyle,” he adds.
Currently preparing for his Class 10 board exams, the young YouTuber has grand plans for the future.
To begin with, he wants to focus on the production of millets.
Tell us your favourite millet recipe and winners will get a chance to get published on The Better India. Find out more here
“A combination of issues like the lack of demand, low wholesale prices and more profitable crops like rice and wheat have disincentivised farmers from growing millets. There is also a severe deficit in locally available machinery such as harvesters and mills that can process the millets in the farmers’ own villages. Instead, farmers are forced to travel to nearby towns and cities, which puts a further financial burden on them,” explains Arka.
Because millets can easily grow in arid regions, Arka states that these undermined crops can reduce the risk of crop failure considerably and are many times better for the environment, thanks to its relatively low water consumption.
“I believe that millets offer a healthier, environmentally conscious alternative, and will support our agricultural industry, especially in arid regions,” he adds.
To further his initiatives, Arka wants to work on the field, with farmers in Karnataka and this he plans on doing once his board exams will be over.
“My initial plan is to find some land, about 2 acres, and learn the fundamentals of millet farming straight from the farmers; possibly by May. This will work in our benefit with the monsoons shortly following that would meet our water requirements,” states the young farming enthusiast, proudly.
Arka’s ultimate aim is to rope in the urban population in an interestingly conceptualised plan of action.
“We have to incentivise our farmers that would motivate them to grow more millets. I plan on raising funds for the same, which could also be utilised by farmers to purchase millet-processing machinery. Alongside, I intend to work with organisations that can aid me in my pursuits and also provide seeds to poor farmers. All of this combined with the increase in demand for millets is what I envision on doing after my exams,” he concludes.
Kudos to this young, ignited mind, whose consciousness about the issues being faced by farmers, degrading consumption habits as well as the drastic environmental damage due to the overutilisation of resources, is quite remarkable.
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We wish Arka success in all of his endeavours and are quite confident that his mission will bring light into the lives of farmers in Karnataka.
You can watch Millet Mantra’s videos on Youtube as well as Facebook. You can also check its website for more information here.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)