Promoting pearl millet technologies to improve livelihoods of the poor
Stakeholders and partners of the ICRISAT-led Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) of Sorghum and Millets project got together at a policy outreach workshop focused on promoting pearl millet technologies in western India for improving productivity, profitability and livelihoods of the poor.
At the workshop held in Bikaner, Rajasthan on 24 February, more than 100 delegates from various state departments of agriculture and seed corporations, national seed corporation, private seed companies, agro-input dealers, processors and policy makers, and scientists from state agricultural universities and ICRISAT deliberated on various issues including: critical gaps in technology transfer and outreach strategies; scarcity of labor in harvesting, threshing and fodder processing; priority interventions for upscaling; and policy incentives for adoption of improved technologies.
Dr Govind Singh, Director of Research, Swami Keshwanand Rajasthan Agricultural University (SKRAU), welcomed the participants and appreciated the sincere efforts of ICRISAT-HOPE project scientists. The Vice Chancellor of the university, Dr AK Dahama, highlighted the importance of millet in western India from the view point of food and nutritional security, and feed and fodder security for livestock, as well as the need to set up a proper improved seed supply mechanism for smallholder farmers to improve productivity of millet in harsh, marginalized ecologies.
Traditionally, pearl millet is the inevitable choice in semi-arid western India. Pearl millet’s resilience to climate change, increasing demand for food as a consequence of population growth, stagnant/declining yields of wheat and rice, limitations to stretch irrigation, all necessitate investments in pearl millet.
Dr Harinarayana, a former Project Coordinator (Millets) referred to pearl millet as the golden grain of arid/semi-arid tropics. He indicated the importance of farmer support schemes to
ensure supply of quality seeds (mini-seed packets) and
plant nutrients (fertilizer kits) backed by technical guidance and knowledge transfer (farmer schools).
Dr N Nagaraj, Objective 1 Leader of the HOPE project, discussed the importance of technologies, enabling policies, institutions, and infrastructure to make pearl millet more remunerative in relation to competing crops and a viable source of income to farmers in the semi-arid tropics.
Dr MN Singh, Director, Directorate of Millets Development, Department of Agriculture and Co-operation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, chaired the technical session. Dr Rajan Sharma, HOPE Objective 6 coordinator for South Asia, emphasized the crucial role of the private sector in ensuring long-term availability of hybrid seed to the farmers, and of NGOs in enhancing delivery of new products.
Dr SK Gupta, HOPE Objective 3 coordinator for South Asia, emphasized the role of hybrids in enhancing crop productivity under rainfed conditions, particularly in Rajasthan (under arid ecologies), the state which has more than 50% of the area under pearl millet in the country. Mrs Vimla Dukwal, Professor of Nutrition, SKRAU, presented in detail the various components of pearl millet value added products, quality parameters and market strategies of processed food.
The workshop concluded with a vote of thanks by Dr PS Shekhawat and Dr IP Singh, local organizers representing the HOPE team. The activity was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals.