On the northern edge of the Maldives, lies H.dh Vaikaradhoo, with a rich history of fertile lands and agricultural significance. Despite the country’s land scarcity, Maldivians are passionate about cropping their own fare. H.Dh Vaikaradhoo has a long history of crop husbandry, with testaments of the small island providing finger millet, wheat, and other cereal grasses to the capital Male’ going as early as 1970s.
Citizens of Vaikaradhoo are ardent about the work, regardless of gender or age. The agricultural work has led the locals of Vaikaradhoo to other islands of the atoll; their commitment to the cause is unparalleled and admirable.
Finger Millet, locally known as Binbi, is usually used in Vaikaradhoo to make sweet and spicy delicacies. While finger millet can birth a diverse range of spicy and savoury dishes, Binbi Maa Fuh— a serving of powdered and sweetened finger millet— is an especially celebrated relish in the Maldives. It is also a common practice to feed babies ground finger millet as their beginner meals.
Finger Millet has huge scope as a profitable produce, with reasonable demand in a stable market.
Vaikaradhoo Council has allocated a 5000 sq ft land area to every household for agricultural work. Following COVID-19 hit, the council also provided an additional 2500 sq ft in order to curb the repercussions. It was when pictures and videos of freshly grown finger millets, Sorghum, and other locally cropped wheat grasses flooded social media platforms, that many realised the agricultural scope the country had.
މަންމަ އާއެކު އަދު ހެނދުނު ދިޔައީ ބިންބި ކަނޑަން. މަސައްކަތަށް ހަމަ ފަށައިގަންތަނުން ހަނދާނަށް ގެނުވީ މީގެ އެތަށް އަހަރެއް ކުރީން ކާފަ މެންނާއެކު ދަނޑުގައި ބިންބިކަނޑަން އުޅުން ހަނދާން. އެއީ މިއަދުވެސް އަހަރުމެންގެ ފަޚުރެއް ❤#Vaikaradhoo pic.twitter.com/3ZyXbkUEMP
— HussaiN ZabyR (@Hxabeer) August 26, 2020
Among the videos that took the country by a storm, was one which showed a group of locals from Vaikaradhoo, manually milling binbi. The video was posted by Hussain Zabeer, Muniyaavilla, H.Dh Vaikaradhoo.
“The work may look simple and effortless to a lot of people— many often disregard the actual work it takes to produce even a bag of binbi. The work requires patience and diligence. This is manual labour and it is often exacting. But with a few friends keeping you company and the passion driving you, the work is less demanding and more congenial.” Zabeer noted.
Even though the practice of hand milling binbi is not a frequent sight to see in the present day, this was a common occurrence in Maldives for generations. Grinding finger millets into powder requires stringent manners and assiduousness. With the pandemic bringing back old habits and fond memories, may be this almost-lost practice would be a welcomed change.