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Smart Food gets global recognition for innovation

With this recognition, Smart Food, an initiative on popularising millets and sorghum, will now promote the demand for millets and strengthen the value chains while ensuring benefits of smallholder farmers

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Smart Food, an initiative which will initially focus on popularising millets and sorghum, has been selected by LAUNCH Food as one of the winning innovations for 2017. The global recognition and mentorship support of LAUNCH Food will help Smart Food to achieve major impacts globally by promoting the demand for millets and strengthen the value chains while ensuring that smallholder farmers benefit.

The Smart Food initiative is founded by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid-Tropics (ICRISAT) and aims to build food systems where the food is good for you (highly nutritious), good for the planet and good for the smallholder farmers.

LAUNCH Food is a global competition where 11 innovations are selected each year for mentoring and linked with high level experts and organisations to accelerate the innovation. This year there were 280 submissions from 74 countries. The LAUNCH Food innovators will attend an event in San Francisco in March to present and discuss their innovation with key industries and investors.

LAUNCH was founded in 2009 by NASA, the US Agency for International Development, the US Department of State and NIKE, Inc., who joined together to identify, showcase and support innovative approaches to sustainability challenges. LAUNCH Food is supported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the US Agency for International Development.

“Millets, including sorghum, are the first Smart Food we are focusing on. They are highly nutritious, have a low water and carbon footprint, and have so many multiple uses that are yet untapped,” said Smart Food initiator and leader, Joanna Kane-Potaka, Director Strategic Marketing and Communication, ICRISAT. “ They have been traditional foods across India and many countries in Africa but with low investments, their value chains are significantly underdeveloped which makes it more difficult for the farmers to invest. Over a period of time they have become labeled as an old fashioned food. We plan to take a different approach and drive demand by first creating a new image and buzz around millets.”

Smart Food will be taken forward as a partnership and many organisations have already teamed up to popularise millets. In India, this includes the Indian Institute of Millet Research (IIMR), the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA). In Kenya, work has started under the USAID Feed the Future Program focusing on the Smart Food – millets, sorghum and selected pulses. Efforts have been initiated in rural areas to integrate Smart Food into messages by health workers and encourage new creative ways to cook with these crops. A social media campaign has been launched and a Smart Food reality TV show started as a competition to develop modern recipes using Smart Food. Processors are also being engaged to develop healthy convenience Smart Food products. 

Photo: Joanna Kane-Potaka, Director Strategic Marketing and Communication, ICRISAT

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