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Small millets, big potential: diverse, nutritious, and climate smart

April 29, 2016

In developing countries, lack of dietary diversity is one of the key factors behind malnutrition and the prevalence of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes.

Small millets, grown as a complement to existing crops, could offer an answer. Performing well in marginal environments, they have superior nutritional properties, including high micronutrient and dietary fibre content, and low glycemic index.

But there has been a drastic decline in the production and consumption of small millets, mainly due to limited productivity, the labour and drudgery involved in their processing, and the negative perceptions of small millets as food for the poor.

In response, farmer-led research, innovative promotional efforts, and inclusion of small millets in public food programs—introduced under the Revalorizing Small Millets in Rainfed Regions of South Asia project—have brought increases in their production and consumption.

Integrated and focused public support is now needed for context-specific production and processing technologies, for effective promotion by the private sector, and for inclusion in government food schemes, to bring back small millets to farms and food baskets.

Policy recommendations from this research are:

  • Include small millets in the Indian public distribution system (PDS) to 10 kg per household per month;
  • Install processing units for dehulling and flourmaking units within a radius of 5 km from villages;
  • Form small millet farmer clusters to produce ready-to-cook grain for shops, rural markets, and supermarkets;
  • Support micro-, small-, and medium-entrepreneurs who produce millet-based foods; and
  • Raise awareness among producers and consumers about millets.

Read the policy brief: Small millets, big potential: diverse, nutritious, and climate smart (PDF, 683 KB).

This document is a part of a Stories of Change series that shares some of the emerging gender outcomes from research supported in Asia by the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund.