Indian Scientist Wins Award For Developing Healthier Bajra

India is a treasure trove of millets. While most of the country has access to good quality wheat now, regions where wheat and rice production is limited, millets like bajra, ragi, and jowar take prominence. Bajra or pearl millet arrived in India thousands of years ago, and is now a staple in many regional cuisines. 

In Marwari cuisine, for instance, bajra is used to make roti, khichdi, and more. It is served to infants and grown-ups alike. In fact, Bajre Ki Roti has gained all the more stardom in recent times as a high-fibre, gluten-free flatbread, which is good for weight-loss and heart health, among others. That is why this new variety of bajra, developed by a scientist from Telangana, should be of everyone’s interest.

Agriculture scientist Mahalingam Govindaraj has bagged the coveted ‘2022 Norman E Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application’, for developing a variety of pearl millet which is fortified with iron and zinc. Named ‘Dhanashakti’, this variety of bajra is the world’s first biofortified pearl millet or Bajra that was released for cultivation in 2014.    

Mahalingam is renowned for his contribution towards mainstreaming biofortified crops, particularly pearl millet, in India and Africa, the World Food Prize Foundation noted in its statement on August 30. They also acknowledged Mahalingam’s decade-long development and dissemination of high-yielding, high-iron and high-zinc pearl millet varieties. His leadership helped contribute to better nutrition of thousands of farmers and their communities.  

The award won by Mahalingam was constituted in 2011 in memory of Norman E Borlaug, a young scientist in Mexico in the 1940s and 1950s, who played a key role in eradicating global hunger and poverty.  The $10,000 award is presented every October in Iowa, the US, to recognize the work of young food scientists who are bringing about a change in the world with their efforts.

The World Food Prize Foundation noted that 200 gms of ‘Dhanashakti’ can provide women with more than 80% of their recommended daily allowance of iron, compared to only 20% in regular varieties of pearl millet. Here’s a delicious Bajre Ki Roti recipe you can try making with the new variety of millet.