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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.

Research brief:

Value chain and market potential of minor millets to strengthen climate resilience, nutrition security and incomes in India

Kodo millet and kutki millet have the ability to grow on dry and marginal lands and at the same time produce grains superior in many nutrients to paddy and wheat. Yet, their cultivation, consumption and marketing remains underdeveloped compared to other cereals in India.

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  • 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.


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 


The custodians of the community seed bank and millet pulveriser in Kolli Hills mingle with women from Mandla and Dindori. Photo: Shambhavi Priyam (used in Farming Matters special edition 2016 - Revaluing Traditional Plants

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