Abha, January 17, 2024, The Asir region's diverse soil composition has created a favorable environment for the cultivation of various crops, with millet standing out as a staple that has been cultivated for centuries. Renowned for its nutritional value, millet represents 3% of the global grain trade, making it a valuable economic commodity that contributes additional income to small-scale farmers.
Agricultural expert Dr. Suleiman Ibrahim categorizes millet into four types: pearl, foxtail, proso, and little. Typically planted at the end of spring and the beginning of summer, millet thrives when the land has received sufficient rainfall, promoting optimal plant growth. Harvesting occurs from late summer to mid-fall once the grains have reached maturity.
Millet cultivation is not limited to Asir; it is a practice adopted by many countries, including Saudi Arabia. The diversification of agricultural crops, the reduction of reliance on traditional crops, and the utilization of arid lands are strategies that contribute to improved food security and economic benefits.
Millet's ability to withstand drought makes it an excellent choice for cultivation in lands unsuitable for other crops, thereby increasing local agricultural production. Dr. Suleiman Ibrahim's study estimates millet production in the Asir region to reach over 1,000 tons annually by 2030, supported by government initiatives.
The inaugural millet farming festival in December in the Asir region brought together over 300 farmers and agricultural experts. Among the participants was Farmer Um Mohammed, who shared insights into traditional millet cultivation methods. The process involves plowing the land with oxen, sowing grains in straight lines, tending to the crop for three months, and harvesting. The harvested grains undergo drying, cleaning, and are then used in traditional dishes.
Highlighting the global significance of millet, Dr. Najib Al-Sagheer, a professor and member of the House of Expertise for Environmental and Agricultural Studies at Al-Baha University, emphasizes its resistance to pests and diseases, as well as its adaptability to harsh environments. Millet plays a crucial role in combating food insecurity and malnutrition, given its high nutritional value.
Dr. Bashri Al-Ameen, a crop expert at the National Center for Organic Agriculture, underscores the importance of warm temperatures and well-drained soil for millet cultivation. Millet's drought resistance and water efficiency, yielding 1.04 kilograms of grain per cubic meter of water, make it a resilient crop. However, it does not thrive in waterlogged soils.
In conclusion, millet's cultivation in the Asir region represents more than just an economic opportunity; it is a strategic move towards sustainable agriculture, food security, and combating global challenges related to malnutrition. The integration of traditional and modern farming practices sets the stage for a promising future for millet in the region and beyond.