The United Nations General Assembly declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets (IYM 2023), and so, the declaration has resulted in the introduction of the Nachneachem Fest in Mapusa, North Goa, this year.
If you’re wondering what nachni is, then you have clearly grown up in this Gen Z period! But, fear not, we are here to help you know more about Goa’s cultural staple food.
Nachni, or nashnne, as finger millet is called in Goa, is used as a staple food in old Mysore (now Mysuru), a region in Karnataka where it is known as ragi.
The Zonal Agriculture Office, Duler, Mapusa, has organised the Nachneachem Fest happening at the farm in Duler.
As soon as you see a fest being organised in Goa, we all know that Festakar Marius Fernandes is likely to be involved in the event. And, indeed Marius Fernandes and Gwendolyn De Ornelas were curators of the fest.
The Director of Agriculture, Nevil Alphonso, along with other helping hands have ensured that the Nachneachem Fest is a fest to remember as well as a means for all to learn about this superfood of Goa.
It is said that there are around 10 different kinds of millets such as the most popular ragi millet, kodo millet, bajri, little millet, foxtail millet, jodhala, vari, proso millet and browntop millet.
As mentioned above, finger millet is very familiar in Goa. This millet was a common ingredient in Goan cuisine like bhakri (flat bread) and ambil (a fermented beverage or porridge).
The Kunnbi and Gavddi tribal communities and farmers drank ambil as it was a "giver of strength". Millet has many health benefits, but nowadays, many people tend to avoid this food.
During the event, Director of the Directorate of Agriculture Nevil Alphonso said, "The main reason for bringing the Nachneachem Fest into the limelight is to highlight millet since it’s the year of millets, and for a long time nachni was not given much importance, nor was it a part of our regular diet. After the proposition by the Government of Goa, it has managed to get the attention of the public once again, and it is considered a superfood and is high in nutrients."
The event also aims to create awareness among the farming community and to welcome more farmers into millet farming. He further added that if there was a demand for millet, then the farmers in turn would have a reason to produce it.
Sandra Fernandes, who works closely with schools in Goa, said that the main aim of this Nachneachem Fest was to let the younger generation know the importance of millets in everyday life.
Considering that these days they only consume a lot of junk food without realising the serious consequences in the long run, her main focus is to educate young children about millets since they are the pillars of the generations to come.
One of the curators of the event Gwendolyn De Ornelas said that the event also aims to support millet farmers since they are considered the poorest in the state in comparison to the basmati and rice farmers.
Another reason for the fest is to empower women and the differently-abled.
Santosh Vani, a member of the Hemophilia Society, Panjim Chapter, spoke about the awareness of bleeding disorders. He said, "Haemophilia is a blood disorder wherein a person after sustaining a cut has endless loss of blood. And, due to the lack of clotting, many people suffering from haemophilia experience extreme blood loss."
He further added that millet is a resourceful food item for all these patients suffering from haemophilia. Through millets, they can get the necessary nutrition. There are several varieties such as foxtail millet, browntop millet, etc which are high in nutrition and help stabilise such health issues.
He also added that not many people have a lot of awareness on these issues, and he is glad that through these fests they have a platform to bring awareness to people.
The Nachneachem Fest was a wonderful platform for women, differently abled and performers to showcase their items and works pertaining to millets in any way possible.
O'luv Rodrigues, Willy Goes, Karlos Gonsalves and Felly Gomes were some of the musicians that performed at the Nachneachem Fest. O'luv Rodrigues composed a Konkani song especially for millets on this occasion. There were young participants who performed dances, but there were no prizes, no competitions - it was purely a platform to showcase your talent.