Scaling-Up Small Millets Post-Harvest and Nutritious Food Products

Many developing countries are facing the double burden of malnutrition, with hidden hunger on the one side and obesity on the other side. In India, there is large scale prevalence of stunted growth among children and anemia among pregnant women (IFPRI 2014). On the other hand, obesity is fast increasing across the rural and urban areas (Kalra et al. 2012). Furthermore, chronic and non-communicable diseases are on the rise. Increasing research and epidemiological evidence link the lack of dietary diversity to these health issues (Khoury et al. 2014).

Small millets are one of the important traditional food groups that have been moved out of the food basket in recent times (Ramachandran 2007). Small millets include finger millet, kodo millet, little millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, and barnyard millet. Small millets offer better nutrition with various micronutrients like vitamin B complex, calcium, iron and sulphur, high dietary fibre and low glycemic index than rice and wheat (Saleh et al. 2013). They are known as both preventive and curative foods. Small millets are climate smart crops with ability to adapt to a wider range of growing environments. Despite these advantages, small millets cultivation and consumption have declined across the world. In India, the area under cultivation declined from 7.26 million ha to 1.98 million ha (a decline of 56.4% in finger millet and 82.5% for the other small millets) between 1965-66 and 2011-12 (Government of India 2014). This decline in area has a direct bearing on the overall decline in the consumption of small millets. One of the important reasons is the drudgery related to dehulling of the millets faced by the women in the producing regions (Pradhan et al. 2010). Consumption is also restricted due to inadequate availability of ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat small millet products in local markets and their higher prices. This limits consumption by the poor and lower middle class consumers, who are most affected by malnutrition.