Revalorising Small Millets in Rainfed Regions of South Asia
An Action Research Project to Raise the Profile of Small Millets

project themes

Theme 6: Public policy analysis and change aimed at conducive policy environment for small millets

The project will analyze existing policy documents as well as the process of policy formulation, implementation, and enforcement. DHAN’s experience with policy change suggests that policy makers are positive about taking action on policy recommendations when the latter are based on empirical evidence drawn from various sociocultural and political environments. In keeping with this point, the project offers an appropriate diversity of policy contexts and instruments as the selected research sites fall in six different geopolitical jurisdictions in South Asia. The following activities will be carried out to effect policy change during and after the wrap-up of the project.

Policy analysis

In-depth analysis of current provincial and national policies related to food and nutrition security, the public distribution system (PDS), seed and agricultural research, agricultural subsidies and support prices, and rural development will be carried out in the first year of the project. The policy analysis exercise will involve focus group and key informant interviews, brainstorming sessions, telephone interviews of key policy makers, questionnaire surveys, and content analysis of local newspapers. The outcome will reveal direct and pervasive incentives provided to major cereal and cash crops. It will be beyond the means of this project to reverse these incentives; however it can create awareness among various stakeholders about the impact of discriminatory policies on small millets and on the viability of their cultivators.

Opportunities in existing policies

The project will identify opportunities and resources available under existing government schemes that can be linked to the cultivation and processing of small millets. For instance, existing rural employment guarantee schemes can pay rural youth who work on common access irrigation schemes or in small millets processing units. The project will help in planning village level activities and organize skills training and working capital through self-help or microcredit groups. DHAN and several other NGOs have used this strategy for supporting water conservation projects in India. The distinctive advantage of this approach is that the benefits of policy change become obvious within the project lifecycle as decisions about the innovative implementation of schemes are normally taken at lower levels in administration.

Reallocating direct subsidies provided to beneficiaries of PDS

In at least two sites the project will attempt to introduce small millets into the PDS. This will offer choices to target beneficiaries beyond the major cereals rice and wheat. In order to support this policy proposal, the project will provide data to government agencies on the preferences of rural and urban poor PDS beneficiaries, organize procurement chains for small millets in the selected regions, and estimate the costs and benefits arising from the reduction in potential storage losses and improvement, if any, in public health. This policy instrument has the potential to reallocate the indirect incentives currently provided to producers of rice and wheat farmers to millet farmers. The project team is aware of resistance in the system to any policy change that disqualifies beneficiaries of the subsidized scheme or reduces their benefits. However, the proposed policy change in the PDS is unlikely to face major resistance as its intended primary beneficiaries remain unchanged. It simply reallocates subsidies from rice and wheat to small millets without changing the overall level of subsidy to the PDS’s beneficiaries.

Networking with policy makers

The project will organize policy workshops and public dialogues with different stakeholders, including political representatives. The participation of various stakeholders, especially the poor and women, is critical to the process of information-gathering, transparent policy discussions, and making policies operational. A periodic newsletter on small millets and food insecurity will be sent to political representatives of constituencies that are identified as drought prone or rainfed.

Creating awareness in scientific institutions

The project will systematically analyze research in mainstream agricultural and industrial institutions to highlight their pervasive bias towards major cereal and cash crops. Findings will be shared with research managers, academics and science policy makers. AICRP and TNAU scientists will organize special sessions in crop science and other conferences at national and international levels to encourage research on small millets. The demonstration of significant improvement in productivity, processing, nutrient content, storage of small millets, and adoption of technologies should bolster policy support for minor millets. Further, the project will support AICRP’s efforts to promote a network of scientists working on small millets in South Asia and Africa.

Networking with other NGOs

The project will network with rights-based NGOs and activists working to bring long term policy change for food security, sustainable development, and the environment. Research findings and development experience generated by the project will be periodically shared with these activist networks, local media and newspapers.