Millets have been used as a food source for centuries. © Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank

Scientists and farmers in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka are working together to increase production and consumption of small millets, pulses and oil seeds.

Minor millets have always been an important and nutritious part of the diets of small-scale farmers and indigenous groups in South Asia. These crops have a lot to offer. They tolerate difficult growing conditions, are easily stored, and could provide smallholders with resilience in the face of climate change, disease and pests.

However, traditional crops like these have consistently been neglected by government policies, which tend to favour major cereals such as rice and wheat, and exportable cash crops like coffee. Research teams working in eight regions in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka aim to conserve threatened millet varieties, improve crop yields, and recover village-based seed systems.

They are developing tool kits that will help promote sustainable farming practices within communities, and are exploring technologies that make processing quicker and easier for the women who usually perform this task. Their overall goal: to improve nutrition and boost incomes in smallholder families and indigenous groups. The project is supported by the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund, a joint program of the International Development Research Centre and the Canadian International Development Agency. The Fund brings together scientists from Canada and developing countries in collaborative research that aims to solve immediate and specific food security challenges in the developing world.

For further information contact:

Isabelle Bourgeault-Tassé
International Development Research Centre, Canada