Fostering the Cultivating of the Forgotten Crop


Foxtail millet (Setaria italica) holds a significant place in the agricultural history of Uttarakhand. Traditionally, foxtail millet, along with other minor millets like barnyard millet, constituted an essential part of the local diet in the hilly regions of Uttarakhand. These crops were valued for their resilience despite adverse conditions and their capacity to thrive in the difficult terrain of the Himalayas ensuring the food security.


But the production of traditional crops like foxtail millet witnessed a decline with the introduction of high-yielding crop types and modern agricultural techniques. These native varieties were neglected and eventually went extinct because of farmers’ gradual shift towards cash crops with greater market demand.


Remarkably last year in 2023, 62-year-old Lakma Devi, a resident of Village Swati, Block Jakhnidhar, Tehri Garhwal, achieved something truly exceptional. MVDA initiated an initiative of establishing demonstration plots in farmers’ fields to assess the yield and seed potential of millet, vegetables, and pulses in the Uttarakhand hill region. Among these plots, a 2 Nali (0.04) plot owned by Lakma Devi was leased as a demonstration plot by MVDA, where the operational responsibilities for the experimental crop were undertaken by the seasoned farmer herself.


The foxtail millet in 0.5 Nali (0.01 ha) was grown in her field, a crop with a rich history in Uttarakhand but now considered a forgotten crop as farmers gradually abandoned its cultivation. Acquiring local seeds for this crop proved challenging, prompting the decision to experiment with different varieties of foxtail millet i.e, Local, Red & Black Foxtail millet in Lakma Devi’s field. Being an experienced farmer, Lakma Devi was familiar with the cultivation methods of foxtail millet. She recalled, “Earlier, it was a common crop grown alongside barnyard millet and foxtail millet, but gradually this crop was neglected, and we didn’t even realize when it became almost extinct in our region.”

Despite uncertainties about whether the crop could withstand the climate after so many years, Lakma Devi wholeheartedly supported the MVDA team. A 200 grams of foxtail millet were sown in her demo plot, and she, along with the MVDA team, meticulously followed all cultivation practices. To everyone’s surprise, the yield exceeded expectations, with approximately 10.5 kgs of foxtail millet harvested from this small piece of land. The maximum yield was obtained from Local seeds and subsequently from Red and Black varieties i.e. 9.1 kgs, 1 kg and 400g respectively. 


Smt. Lakma Devi harvesting the Foxtail millet (Setaria italica)

Conservation of seeds through community seed bank :

The seeds obtained from Lakma Devi’s field have placed saved in the Umang Community Seed Bank, ensuring their availability for distribution to other farmers in the upcoming growing seasons. Lakma Devi, along with fellow farmers, are determined to collectively grow foxtail millets, producing a bulk quality to sell in the market and providing a valuable source for self-consumption. Rich in protein, dietary fibre, crude fat, and minerals, foxtail millet has made a successful return in year 2023 to the region after a lapse of 15-20 years, as attested by the local farmers.


Article by :


1Pratibha Rawat, 1R.S. Negi, 2Navprabhat Singh


1Department of Rural Technology, Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University, Srinagar (Garhwal), Uttarakhand

2Mount Valley Development Association, Tehri Garhwal


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