Lise Bjerke

Showcasing Varieties of Small Millet in a Diversity Block

Posted on: 1/29/2014

When making important decisions like which seed to plant, it’s good to know your options. A diversity block brings many varieties of a crop together in the same field so farmers can see them growing side-by-side. 

Diversity blocks demonstrate the diversity of genetic material available, to preserve rare varieties, and also to evaluate the performance of the varieties under different conditions. As part of the ‘Revalorising Small Millets’ (RESMISA) project, diversity blocks were set up in Kaski and Dhading districts. 

Finger millet, known as kodo, is the most commonly grown small millet in Nepal. But barnyard millet, little millet and foxtail millet were also included in the diversity block of Dhading. A total of 28 varieties of small millets have been collected from Tanahun, Ghorka, Kaski and Dhading districts. 

The Diversity Block is located in a farmer’s field. It is intentionally set up close to the road and village area so that many farmers can come see the diversity of small millets. The small millets are grown according to the farmer’s practices and the performance of the different varieties is recorded by LI-BIRD to better understand the characteristics of each variety when grown in that ecological zone. At the time of harvest, when the plants are mature, the performance of the varieties can be assessed.

We visited the diversity block in Jogimara VDC to meet with farmers and evaluate the traits of the varieties. This participatory varietal selection is a process where farmers define which traits are important when they decide which variety to grow. Farmers selected characteristics such as resistance to disease, size and shape of ‘finger’ as important traits in small millet. Men and women may have different preferences. For example, female farmers preferred a variety that produces more straw, which is used as fodder for goats, cows and buffalos. 

The farmers walked around the field and examined local varieties such as Seto Jhaype, a local variety from Kaski, which was also performing well in the Dhading field conditions. It will be promoted as a productive and disease-resistant option for farmers in Dhading.

“Diversity block is beneficial because we get to see the kodo from different districts,” said Puspa, the farmer who owns the land. “I think the performance of Mangsire is satisfactory and I would like to grow that variety next year”. Farmers can access the seeds of these local varieties of small millets – and many other crops – from the Jogimara Community Seed Bank.

By: Laura Husak, University of Manitoba. Laura is an Anthropology Masters student conducting fieldwork on participatory technology transfer as part of the RESMISA project.