Minor millets including finger millet (Eleusine coracana), little millet (Panicum sumatrense), Italian / foxtail millet (Setaria italic), barnyard millet (Echinocloa crusgalli), proso millet (Panicum miliaceum) and kodo millet (Paspalus scrobiculatum) are important food grain and fodder crops in South Asia, particularly in marginal hilly and semi-arid regions. They hold a central role in local food cultures but their presence in the food basket has been in decline because of their lower marketability compared to other crops. Minor millets are hardy to diverse climatic stresses and are highly nutritious in terms of calcium, iron, fiber, essential amino acids and a low glycemic index.
Minor millets have great promise to address food security and poverty challenges in South Asia but they face challenges to greater use, including arduous processing and a stigma as “food of the poor”. Through the IFAD NUS project, Bioversity International and partners M.S. Swaminathan Foundation (India), LI-BIRD (Nepal), and the Nepal Agricultural Research Council have worked to develop the value chains of minor millets to enhance their contribution to the livelihoods of the rural poor and to strengthen the conservation of their genetic diversity. Using a holistic approach, activities were carried out at multiple levels of the value chain to encourage their greater cultivation, use and conservation.