Small millets were once the traditional cereal crop in marginal, rain-irrigated areas in South Asia. But they are fast disappearing from fields and food baskets as farmers switch to rice, wheat or cash crops. This change is because small millets are labour intensive and require tedious processing after they are harvested, while governments are indifferent to the crop’s decline. Meanwhile, a fall in food diversity, such as nutritious millets, is being linked to rising malnutrition across developing countries.
This audio slideshow visits a remote corner of southern India, whose bleak, parched terrain supports few crops. It is one location of an IDRC (International Development Research Centre) project that aims to revive millet farming in South Asia. The initiative helps farmers to test a millet variety of their choice. It is also trying to introduce modern millet recipes, for example noodles and millet snacks such as biscuits, to entice children and young people back to the crop.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s South Asia desk.
Putting hardy small millets back on the menu