The project is implemented in six sites in four Indian states (Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu), one site in Sri Lanka and another in Nepal. These sites were selected on the basis of the following criteria:
- presence of small millets based cropping systems and their local use as food
- predominance of rainfed agriculture
- high incidences of poverty
- poor performance in human development indicators including female literacy and malnutrition.
The selected sites are remote, underdeveloped and some of them have significant tribal population. The sites from Odisha, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh fall in the country’s eastern plateau while the three sites in Tamil Nadu (Javadhu hills, Krishnagiri and Thirumangalam) fall in the southern plateau.
According to the recent Food Insecurity Atlas of Rural India (2008), the food security status in the project sites range from poorly secure to severely insecure. Some of these sites are located in the poorest regions of India’s least developed states (Orissa and Jharkhand). Koraput, for example, is one of the 10 poorest districts in Odisha where the problem of food insecurity has raised international concern (Government of India 2007). More than 85 per cent of households are classified as below poverty line in project villages (Census of India 2001). Although Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are considered economically advanced states, sites selected in these states match many of the indicators of Koraput.
The project site in Sri Lanka, Thanamalvila falls in one of the country’s driest zones. Though Thanamalvila is dominated by the mainstream Sinhala community, it is considered as one of the country’s poorest regions, with the high suicide rate in Sri Lanka. The site in Nepal, Kaski captures the agro ecological variability that exists in a mountain ecosystem.
As small millets are considered food for the poor, all sites area areas where small millets are grown and consumed but also where small millets are being increasingly marginalized. These sites have diverse agro ecological, sociocultural, economic and political complexity involved in promoting small millets.'