Revitalizing Millet for Rural Transformation in Nepal

Nepalese agriculture is facing a number of challenges, including a shrinking cropped area, principally due to land use changes, low competitiveness, and increasing impacts of climate change, leading to a volatile food security situation. Likewise, changing dietary patterns – characterised by less diverse foods and more consumption of energy-dense ultra[1]processed and packaged foods – has been the leading cause of malnutrition, especially among children and adolescents. Promoting a millet-based food system has the potential to improve food security and nutrition in the country. However, there has been a declining trend in the production and consumption of millets owing to a number of reasons.

People are less aware of the health and nutritional benefits of millets. There are some social taboos attached to the consumption of millets, which are undervalued and labelled the ‘poor person’s food’. Similarly, there is little choice for millet-based food recipes and value-added products, rendering children and youngsters not much attracted towards them. Moreover, only little has been done to explore other competitive uses of millets such as brewing and branding of local alcohol. There are issues around the production environment of millets. Low yields and rising costs of production have rendered the millets less competitive and less attractive enterprises for many farmers. In addition to that, existing policies favour major cereals and commercial crops over millets.