Bioversity International: research for development in agricultural and tree biodiversity

Indian millet. Credit: Bioversity International/S.PadulosiBioversity International has been working with partners for 15 years in India to promote millet use and conservation.

Genetically diverse and adapted to a range of marginal growing conditions where grains such as wheat and rice are unsuccessful, millets mature quickly, are able to withstand climatic stress, and grow in a variety of soils. High in a range of micronutrients, including calcium, iron and dietary fiber, millets also offer a better balance of essential amino acids, and are therefore a more usable protein, than wheat, rice and maize.

Saving the most viable seeds of these crops suitable for each region has been a focus of the research. But this is not the limit of the focus. It’s on the entire value chain, starting with encouraging farmers to grow millets in their fields, introducing efficient methods of cultivation and harvesting, and incorporating enhanced nutrition into the communities.

Liberating women to entrepreneurs

The introduction of mechanical grain processing greatly reduced the drudgery for women processing millets, who have taken advantage of their liberation to develop novel food products and recipes.  Watch the short video below to find out more.

Results

  • India’s National Food Security Act incorporated millet into the public distribution system, and a farm diversity program promoting millet cultivation specifically targeted states with malnutrition.
  • School children eating millet for lunch had up to 37% higher levels of haemoglobin over students eating white rice.
  • Farmers and grain processors, particularly women’s groups, have seen crop yields increase by as much as 77%, with a corresponding increase in net income of up to 50%—profit from millet is approximately 30 rupees for every kg sold, where the poverty line in India is 32 rupees per day in rural areas and 47 rupees per day in urban areas.
  • Access to improved varieties of millet account for improved production, with community seed banks established and growing.
  • Increased markets for small-scale producers have seen restaurants adding millet-based dishes, and women producing millet-based snacks, which have led to increased consumption and demand.

News

13 Jul 2016

Making millets matter in Madhya Pradesh

A decline in minor millet cultivation rings true across much of India. Yet a country wide revival of this cereal crop is in motion. Farmers are once again recognizing and asserting the value of minor millets, a cereal crop that was once central to their culture. 

14 May 2015

Underutilized crops to enhance resilience and nutrition in Mali, India and Guatemala

A new research initiative aims to enhance the resilience of livelihoods and improve nutrition in Mali, India and Guatemala through the use of neglected and underutilized species such as fonio, kodo millet and chaya spinach. 

27 Feb 2015

Millet revolution in India: Let's keep up the momentum!

Over 15 years of promoting millet use and conservation is paying off. Research fellow Gennifer Meldrum reports from Chennai, India as Bioversity International and partners are taking the initiative to the next level.

Partners

CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), M.S. Swaminathan Foundation, Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research, and Development (LI-BIRD), Nepal Agricultural Research Council, Action for Social Advancement (ASA), Gene Campaign 

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