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

project themes

Theme 5: Promoting Consumption

In contemporary globalized agriculture, farm producers are not necessarily consumers of their own products and linking local production and consumption of small millets is complicated. Challenges arise from the inferior social status of small millets, their increasing demand in urban niche markets, and the labour intensive methods of preparing traditional foods. In order to ensure that increased cultivation area and productivity of small millets translate into a matching increase in consumption at the household level, the project will examine various means to:

  • enhance the social profile of small millets based diet in rural communities;
  • increase access to small millets based products in local as well as distant markets; and
  • improve the distribution of small millets based healthy foods or nutraceuticals across gender and class lines locally. In order to design location specific activities, research sites will be categorized on the basis of current levels of production and consumption, existing channels (public and private) of distribution, and on the local availability of entrepreneurs.

The project will pursue the following activities for promoting a brand called Mighty Small Millets:

Consumer Survey

A survey will be conducted among rural and urban consumers to understand what they know about, and how they view, the small millets based diet, to find out details of access to public and market based channels of distribution, total intake and patterns of food distribution within households, and the role of gender in intra-household food distribution.

Promoting small millets through local entrepreneurs

The project will map supply chains of small millets from farm to final consumers and will study the difference between prices paid at the farm gate and at the final point of purchase. The understanding of demand in local and distant markets, procurement and value addition chains, and distribution of profits will help the project to mobilize local entrepreneurs who can play roles in processing, value addition and distribution. The local entrepreneurs would be linked to farm producers and information on the nutritional qualities of the millet varieties grown by farmers would be popularized. It will provide research support and facilitate access to post harvest technology. The project team acknowledges inherent risks in this activity, though less than that undertaken by an individual entrepreneur, and it will seek to create a sustainable model for raising demand, employment, and farm gate prices for farmers.

Public and community based channels

The project will persuade local district school boards (private and public) to include traditional dishes and value added products made from small millets in their ongoing mid-day lunch schemes. It will also promote serving small millets foods at functions organized by community based organizations and government agencies. In places where entrepreneurs are hard to mobilize, the project will seek to organize existing self-help or interest groups to establish processing units for small millets based products in their community.

Public outreach events

Traditional food festivals and recipe competitions, TV programs, films, newspaper columns, information sessions for journalists, and promotional material highlighting cultural, nutritional, environmental and other qualities of small millets will be organized. The project will set up informational displays on small millets at public places such as railway stations, bus stops, and airports. A specialized promotion program, involving the private sector, will be designed to promote small millets among elite consumers of urban markets. For instance, it will promote the inclusion of small millets in food served on domestic flights, in private hospitals, hotels, and in state legislative premises.

Educational campaign

The project will engage schools and the adult literacy program in creating awareness about the nutritional benefits of small millets. It will prepare educational materials on the subject to disseminate through rural schools. This material will also educate its target audience on the significance of child and maternal health, women’s literacy, locally grown foods, equality in food distribution within household, and women’s empowerment.