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Leveraging millets enterprises for women's economic empowerment

Leveraging millets enterprises for women’s economic empowerment project is conducted with women millet producers in Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in Odisha, India, to evaluate in detail, whether and how millet processing and value addition provide income and enhance livelihoods for women in the groups.  

The project is led by Dr Apurba Shee at the Natural Resource Institute, University of Greenwich. The project team also includes the University of Kent and Indian partners Watershed Support Services and Activities Network (WASSAN) and Nabakrushna Choudhury Centre for Development Studies (NCDS).

Millets are an important crop in arid and semi-arid areas in India, typically tolerant to extreme weather. They are nutritionally superior to major cereals with respect to protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals. Consumption of millets can help in building nutritional and immunity security, which is ever important for millions of populations, particularly a priority for our current COVID-19 global pandemic situation.

The SHGs are village-based organizations, 10-15 such SHGs form a cluster, and all clusters in a block (sub-district administrative units) are facilitated as a block-level federation. These village- and block-level organizations provide a platform to facilitate collective action and link with various income-generating opportunities. Although there exist many livelihood projects in India, rigorous impact evaluations are scant.

Our project will empower women to use their time effectively and give them income that can influence decision-making in the household. Moreover, this project helps women remain in the home rather than being involved in crop production or pursuing wage employment, which can impact children’s health, education, and nutrition.

The key components of the millet processing enterprise will be the following.

  1. Technical support to postharvest and processing of millets- to remove technological constraints (lack of appropriate skills, lack of women-friendly tools, tedious postharvest operations) The project will provide operational support services including training of local mechanics.
  2. Value addition through new product development. The project will work on three broad millet consumption areas: household, community and commercial consumption
  3. Enterprise development support. SHGs getting to enterprises for developing high-value products need separate business development.
  4. Gender-responsive training and capacity building. The project will provide training on enterprise development around millet processing and value addition.
  5. Innovation nutrition profiling, and market linkage. As one of the components of the project is to enhance the nutritional security of the women when product development is being done, it is important to do nutritional profiling of the millet landraces and millet products.

Our project is in collaboration with the flagship initiative of the Government of Odisha “Special Programme for Promotion of Millets in Tribal Areas of Odisha" (or, Odisha Millets Mission, or OMM that has been implemented since 2017 and currently operational in 72blocks spread across 14 districts in Odisha. It is being implemented by the Government of Odisha in partnership with and promoted by WASSAN and NCDS, local NGOs and local community-based organisations.

The project has been awarded a prestigious grant of 1mln USD from the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Find out more about millet farming from our partners Odisha Millets Mission in the video below:

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Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Manoj Dora

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Project last modified 09/01/2024