Case StudySafbin

To promote Local Food And Nutritional Security through Adaptive Small scale
Farming in four rainfed AES in South Asia in the context of climate change

  • Indian smallholder farmers revive kodo for their nutritional security

  •   | 
  • 03/07/2013

Kodo millet (paspalum scrobiculatum L.) was introduced to India almost 3000 years ago. On a national level it is only a minor grain crop, but on the Deccan Plateau it plays a much larger role. Some of kodo millet’s nutritional qualities bypass the more common cereals like rice and wheat. Kodo millet contains 10% protein and is an excellent source of fibre and other nutrients adding to the diversification of local food baskets. It can be easily cultivated by smallholder farmers as the crop is hardy, requires minimum input costs and survives in wastelands or undulating terrain. The taste is locally accepted and the grain can easily be stored. This “wonder grain” lost its ground to rice and wheat as the post-harvest is labour intensive and time consuming. But the adaptive qualities of kodo millet, to grow under adverse conditions, make it an interesting crop for adaptation of smallholder farming systems to climate change. Supported by SAF-BIN project and through the interaction with experts, farmers in Mandla district, Madhya Pradesh, India have formed a smallholder farmers collective (SHFC) and have realized the importance of kodo millet.

Hira Lal is one of these farmers. He resides in the tribal village of Gram Baigakheda in Mandla district. He owns a farm of just above 1ha on which his family of four depends for their food security. In 2013 Hira Lal joined his local SHFC established under the SAF-BIN project.

In 2013 there was excess rainfall that threatened the harvest of usually grown crops. Upon observing this risk, the local SHFC, in which Hira Lal is involved, decided to try growing a local variety of kodo millet called “badi kodo” supported by SAF-BIN project. Hari Lal borrowed seeds from fellow farmers and sowed 0.6ha with this traditional crop. He applied the local cultivation practises to his upland, sandy plot (ploughing twice for levelling after sowing to allow excess water runoff).

Harvest was plentiful with 100kg from the initially sown 4kg. This grain surplus was replacing rice to be consumed by the family as dali, pej, kheer and stored until food shortage in summer season. Unlike previously, when he had to barter with other farmers for rice, Hari Lal could also supply his family with kodo millet during sickness as it is known as food supporting a quick recovery.

The kodo millet trial was continued by the SHFC also in 2014 with the introduction of the kodo variety JK41 by SAF-BIN project. Hari Lal was supplied with 4kg of this variety and once more cultivated 0.6 ha with this crop under different weather conditions (delayed rains) and with slightly adapted cultivation practices (weeding, botanical, ploughing three times). The result was a harvest of 170kg of which he could preserve 8kg in a seed bank ensuring cultivation for the following year.

For Hari Lal a lot has improved. His family is food secure throughout the year as kodo millet contributes to other cereals, pulses and vegetables. Furthermore he is now in a position to share kodo millet seeds with others.

“We revived and given value to our traditional food crop. This has shown me a new way and changed my life. There were times when I use to borrow seeds and grains to feed my family, but now I have surplus grains to feed my family and share with fellow farmers”. concludes smallholder farmer Hari Lal.


Unlike rice and wheat kodo millet can be stored at a lower 13% moisture content. The grain is also less sensitive to temperatures.

dali, pej, kheer are local dishes


Author:Valentine Denis Pankaj, SAF-BIN National Project Coordinator, Caritas India

Editing: Romana Roschinsky, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna