Revalorizing Millet: A Case of Foxtail Millet Rescue and Promotion in Kaski, Nepal

December 2023


Foxtail Millet (Setaria italica (L.) P. Beauv) is traditionally grown in Nepal, especially in western high hill regions, and considered as an indigenous crop. The crop has a short crop cycle (85 to 90 days), making it well adapted to the mountain farming system, commonly grown in dry sloping lands with minimal external inputs. The foxtail millet is listed among neglected and underutilized crops despite its distinctive agronomic characteristics and nutritional value. Some of the factors contributing to its decline include dominance of rice-based food culture; labor intensive intercultural practice; difficult post-harvest operation and limited awareness on its nutritional value amongst consumers. In order to revalorize the foxtail millet, a series of key interventions along the value chains were carried out applying conservation through utilization approach in Kaski district of Nepal, where farmers were supplied with seeds of preferred local landrace, Seto Kaguno; mini-tiller was supported on cost-sharing basis; introduced advanced processing machine; added value through proper packaging and marketing through a private sector partnership; diversified food recipes and its promotion such as ‘Kaguno Kheer’ pudding through linking with hoteliers and food fair and, producers and their groups were awarded to recognize their contribution in conservation efforts. These interventions have paid off. The average cost of production was reduced by 22% and average milling recovery enhanced by 15%, thereby making cultivation of foxtail millet attractive, reflected in cultivation area increase from 0.025 ha to 4.7 ha with corresponding production increment from 0.006 ton to 4.1 tons in 2023 as compared to 2013. Interest in foxtail millet is gradually increasing amongst producers and consumers. Persistent push-pull efforts have resulted in a positive outcome for crop restoration and establishing a private sector-led value chain which can be a learning for a similar farming system.

Keywords: Foxtail millet, market promotion, conservation through utilization