Himachal’s millet man Nekram Sharma conferred with Padma Shri by the President of India

Himachal Pradesh’s millet farmer, Nekram, a resident of Nanj in Mandi district, was conferred Padma Shri by the President of India, Draupadi Murmu, in Delhi on Wednesday for adopting the natural cultivation of nine endangered types of millet, also called traditional coarse grains.

After receiving this award, Nanj village on the banks of the Sutlej River is feeling elated about the son of their soil, Nekram Sharma. Padamshree Nekram Sharma was born into an ordinary farming family on the mountain and has received the country’s most prestigious award due to his connection with the soil and his passion to do something different.

Nekram Sharma not only conserved the endangered grains but also inspired other farmers to cultivate millet. It is the result of Nekram Sharma’s hard work and passion that today more than twenty thousand farmers have joined natural farming.

Nekram Sharma joined the countrywide literacy campaign in the year 1992, and during this period he also got associated with natural farming and then did not look back.

It is a different matter that Nekram did not want to become a farmer. Like the educated youth of the mountain, he also wanted to leave his village while doing a government job. But it was decided by fate that he would become a farmer.

He gave many interviews for the job he was seeking and sometimes got selected, but then the recruitment was canceled. and sometimes failed in the interview.

After joining the literacy campaign, he went from village to village and explained to the people the basic mantra of literacy—knowing the reasons for their plight and trying to get rid of it, a change started taking place within them too.

First of all, Nekram promoted animal husbandry by growing grass in the forest of his village; then he also got inclined towards natural farming in the fields.

The most important reason behind this was that the grains grown through chemical farming started adversely affecting the health of the people.

Nekram Sharma promoted the cultivation of nine coarse grains. He took tips for sawing these grains by natural farming from Prof. J. P. Upadhyay of Dr. Yashwant Singh Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry Nauni University and also got training in mountain and the traditional cropping system of nine coarse grains at Agriculture University Dharwad Benglore. It was not all that easy.

Apart from traditional cereals like Kangni, Kodra, and Sonk Jowar of our country, he also started the preservation of state coarse grains like desi maize, barley, and kolthi (pulses). Nekram Sharma says that these grains are not only nutritious to eat but also very beneficial from the point of view of health.

He says that our ancestors and forefathers always remained healthy by consuming these grains. Engrossed in natural farming, Nekram got involved in uncovering the secrets of traditional grain and vegetable production, angora rearing, cooperation, and traditional food preservation with the traditional rotation of growing nine types of mixed farming together at one place.

It is interesting that the United Nations General Assembly, at its 75th session in March 2021, declared 2023 the International Year of Millets (IYM 2023). FAO is the lead agency for celebrating the year in collaboration with other relevant stakeholders. Millets could grow on arid lands with minimal inputs and are resilient to changes in climate.

The coarse grains were considered less gluten food, which keeps away various types of ailments, and highly nutritious food has a number of rare food contents.

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