The name “small millet” encompasses at least 6 millet varieties: finger millet, proso millet, foxtail millet, little millet, barnyard millet and Kodo. These crops are highly nutritious, require little water, have a small carbon footprint and a diversity of uses, from beverages to edible cutlery. Small millets have long been neglected in favor of more financially lucrative crops but their nutritional profile and versatility are now bringing them renewed attention. The real protagonists of this rediscovery are farmers in India, especially women. Supported by local NGOs who provide technical and entrepreneurial skills, these farmers are using small millets to fight the malnutrition that is affecting their villages and foster rural development.
Millet is prized for its ability to thrive in hot and dry environments, its resilience to droughts and its short growing season. The reliability of millet in poor growing conditions compared to other grains has made millet a major crop in Saharan countries of western Africa and drought stricken regions of southeast Asia. Despite these adaptations, if provided good soil health and moisture, millet can produce 2-4 times more grain per hectare. Millets are increasingly important crops as climate change increases marginal land, and the need to grow nutritious crops in poor conditions grows.
Millets are nutritious grains, high in dietary fiber and gluten-free. Millets contain 7-12g protein per 100g of raw grain, depending on the millet species, placing them in a similar protein range as wheat and significantly higher than rice or maize. In addition to significant protein and carbohydrate levels, millets contain important essential fatty acids. Millets are a good source of multiple types of Vitamin Bs, as well as Iron, Magnesium, Manganese and Phosphorus. Polyphenols in millets are known to promote a low glycaemic index, helping reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.