Traditional Millet Festival: Counteracting diabetes, hypertension and other lifestyle diseases – Tamil Nadu

Due to the growing change in the diet of the village people to more “easy” foods like ration rice, vegetables grown with heavy chemical usage and inorganically grown fruits, the health of the people is deteriorating fast and many new diseases are evolving. The cases of diabetes, hypertension and other lifestyle diseases have dramatically increased, diseases that have been unheard of in this remote valley for the past twenty years. As rains had also failed for the past two years, the water table has reduced to a dangerously low level. But at the same time, cultivation of rice, sugarcane and other water intensive crops continues drawing much water through bore wells and diesel pumps in every farm. These have become a necessity. The problem goes deeper than it appears – while the water guzzling rice and sugarcane are cash crops, the traditional varieties of millets require much lesser water and are also many fold more nutritious than rice. The farmers here need returns for what they invested in the way of pesticides and fertilizers and thus this becomes a vicious cycle (millets do not need these chemicals as the seed varieties and the very nature of the plant itself is to be sturdy and resistant).

Considering this situation, Tribal Health Initiative decided to organize a traditional millet food festival in Thulir grounds to revive the usage of millets and to make clear the reasons for the diseases that the villagers are experiencing. For this cause, we had doctors Regi and Lalitha from the tribal hospital, here in Sittilingi, talk about the various problems that can be caused to the body by consumption of inorganically grown food.

To support their point of view, there were organic farmers coming in from all over the valley (and outside it too) to talk of the benefits of farming closer to nature. Of course, it was all from personal experience, which made the talk so much more relevant and easier to relate to for the farmer audience.

To make sure that it was not all talk and no fun, there were dance performances and singing too, all traditional, and supported by a tawil (a traditional drum) player. The words of some of the songs advocated the planting of spinach, beans and other vegetables for nutrition and the tale of a farmer who took care of his soil like a rich man would take care of all his gold (and so the song spoke about methods of soil conservation and sustainable farming) Traditional songs being sung by the villagers in praise of the soil and the rain gods.

To end this well was the most enjoyable part of the program – a feast of millets!! The locals had all been organized into groups and each group cooked delicious dishes for all of us! Ragi, thenai, saame, kambu were the main components of all the food in the feast.

Four varieties of grains that made close to 30 varieties of mouth watering treats, including thenai paayasam, kambu roti, ragi murukku and saame upma, and many many more. Whether or not one paid attention during the talking, everyone surely ate with great gusto! We made sure to try out ALL the dishes and greatly enjoyed the rather extravagant spread. Hope has been renewed in the form of a small food grain… […]

Workshops For adolescents

One truly positive aspect about working in Thulir is the possibility of witnessing other key aspects of Anu and Krishna’s educational methods. They organize four sessions each month for all the young adults to guide them to promote their personal growth and development.
These sessions are set up to let anyone speak freely about their personal views and needs.

These discussions revolve around societal issues such as women’s status and role or problems linked to alcoholism. The founders really focus on helping each student on how to relate with others when one is a member of tribal communities in rural areas. One key aspect of these discussions is conflict resolution and the need to improve the quality of communication with others through practical exercises such as role play. […]

Source: Thulir | A Centre for Learning at Sittilingi Village
Address : http://www.thulir.org/wp/blog/
Date Visited: Mon Sep 23 2013 14:22:51 GMT+0200 (CEST)

Homepage thulir.wordpress.com

Where is Thulir?

Sittilingi is an Adivasi Village in the Dharmapuri District of Tamil Nadu, India. It is in a Valley enclosed by the Kalrayan hills to the East and the Sitteri Hills to the West. There are twenty-one Malayalee (adivasi) hamlets, two Lambadi hamlets and one dalit hamlet here.

Source: Thulir | A Centre for Learning at Sittilingi Village
Address : http://www.thulir.org/wp/
Date Visited: Mon Sep 23 2013 14:32:19 GMT+0200 (CEST)

The Challenges that face us:

We are faced with a traditional Adivasi Community in rapid transition. This has its repercussions often difficult to identify and address.

For example, we have increasing cases of suicides and the causes seem frivolous at first sight. Could there be deeper issues involved?

We can see increasing pressures of mainstream consumerist culture, concept of what constitutes basic needs is rapidly changing with ever increasing need for hard cash.

Increasing emphasis on acquiring degrees and the commercialisation of education and the exploitation this entails.

Farming as a way of life is fast disappearing in the village. This means a loss of traditional knowledge and seeds and even the idea of food self sufficiency at the local community level. Learn more >>

Source: Reflections on the past 6 years!! | Thulir
Address : http://thulir.wordpress.com/reflections/
Date Visited: Tue Jan 28 2014 10:13:32 GMT+0100 (CET)

[Post updated 28-01-14]

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