Resilience through biodiverse cropping and millet recipes driven by Indian women network


This project is currently being implemented in the North of India since 2018 and focuses mainly on female smallholder farmers. The scope is to strengthen resilience through biodiverse cropping and seed system and broaden the type of crop produced in this region. The project is particularly in line with the agroecology principles and elements on input reduction and efficiency, economic diversification, co-creation and exchange of knowledge and human and social values.

Lead Organization

The project is led by HimRRA Network which is the Himachal Pradesh branch of the national Revitalizing Rainfed Agriculture Network, a gathering of civil society organizations, researchers, and practitioners with the vision to establish productive and resilient rainfed agriculture in India.  

Partner organizations:  

  • Rural Technical Development Cooperation (RTDC): it is a voluntary action group established in 1988 and operates in the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh, India. RTDC has been promoting equity-based, mountain-specific and people-centered development with a focus on sustainability and inclusiveness. RTDC works with marginalized groups on three themes: 1) natural resource management, 2) economic and sustainable livelihoods, and 3) local self-governance. 
  • Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development (CORD): it is a movement that now encompasses a wide range of spiritual, educational, and charitable activities, ennobling the lives of thousands in India and across its borders. 
  • Watershed Support Services and Activities Network (WASSAN): they work with communities, civil society, research and government institutions in rainfed areas to bring in prosperity and ecological security . They focus on smallholder farmers, farm workers, women and tribal communities. 

The project operates in the Himachal Pradesh state of India, and in particular in the districts of Kangra, Chamba, Mandi, Hamirpur, Bilaspur, and Kullu.


From March 2018 to present.


The total cost for the initiative is USD 53,000. The funding comes from the Global Fund for Community Foundations (GFCF) (USD 40,000) and the Himachal Pradesh State Government (USD 13,000). 


The working region lies in low and medium hills [500 meters to 2200 meters above sea level] having humid subtropical climate. Inhabited largely by marginal people in the rainfed area, the terraced fields are small sized, each family owning around half-a-hectare of land.

Farmers sow a variety of crops including vegetables and cereals largely to meet domestic requirements. They sow cereals like paddy and wheat and have lately added some millet like finger millet and foxtail millet. Keen to grow vegetables, they also cultivate pulses and beans and generally have 10 or more crops even in a small area owned (e.g., quarter of a hectare).

Main beneficiaries

The main beneficiaries of the project are women farmers, and consumers to some extent. 



  • Build a network of organizations / farmers engaged in natural farming; 
  • Promote natural farming and strengthen agrarian livelihoods; 
  • Develop framework for public investments into rainfed agriculture;  
  • Encourage people’s innovations for location-specific solutions; 
  • Provide forums for capacity-building (and integration); 
  • Effect policy change by working as an interface between civil society and state government (starting with Panchayati Raj Institutions);  
  • Integrate farmers into collectives such as Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs), Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs); and 
  • Promote ecological farming. 


The project operates on small and marginal farms (less than 1 hectare).  

  • Exchanges and peer-to-peer knowledge through the network of organizations and farmers. It has been the strong point of the project, and is aligned with the co-creation and sharing of knowledge (HLPE’s principle 8 of agroecology, FAO’s element 2 of agroecology) 
  • Promote natural farming such as recycling which enables lower production costs and a better environment. This is aligned with recycling and input reduction (HLPE’s principles 1 and 2, FAO’s elements 4 and 5). 
  • Encourage governments’ contributions in the rainfed regions where people try to develop agricultural food systems that are more environmentally friendly, in line with the land and natural resources governance (HLPE’s principle 12, FAO’s element 9). 
  • Encourage better crop system which is context specific and adapted to local conditions and knowledge, in using synergy (HLPE’s principle 6, FAO’s element 3). 
  • Help in social and human value systems to build capacity and promote social values and millet-based diets (HLPE’s principle 9, FAO’s element 7). 
  • Raise awareness with farmers, villagers, and advocate towards representatives of districts and states to call for more funding in these areas, aligned with the land and natural resources governance (HLPE’s principle 12, FAO’s element 9). Meet with policymakers in Shimla (the State capital city) and showcase the participation of farmers/villagers, training and activities implemented.  
  • Organize field trainings, e-Learning and school visits to reinforce farmers’ production organizations and communities, economic diversification and circular economy (HLPE’s principle 7, FAO’s elements 7 and 10). 
  • Promote ecological farming practices such as line sowing and multi-cropping with millets, prepared using dung and urine from indigenous cattle, and by promoting traditional seeds and landraces. Encourage farmers to use their local seeds and exchange them amongst each other to have more yields and a better adaptation to the local climate. 

Effects and impacts

Lessons learned and Results

What are the key lessons learned from the implementation? 

FAO’s 10 elements on agroecology helped them understand there are four key paths to ensure a good implementation: 

  • Responsible governance 
  • Diversity 
  • Circular economy 
  • Co-creation and sharing of knowledge. 

Moreover, the initiation by the formation of network brought the community closer in a short time. This helped in co-creation and sharing of knowledge through physical meetings and through media (WhatsApp). 

Women farmers took to Natural Farming more vigorously, as they noticed change in the behavior of children due to the consumption of conventional food versus when naturally grown food was provided. Women farmers took interest and created new recipes (including some based on traditional preparations) which were also sold at events organized (e.g. at Dharamshala, Palampur and Karsog). Participation and involvement of women farmers brought them recognition for developing innovative recipes and sales at the events provided financial gains. 

What are the enabling conditions? 

  • Networking; 
  • Community level field work; 
  • Opportunity to women farmers to act as managers; 
  • Gender-balanced organizers’ team; 
  • Promoting local experts, recognizing and appreciating local innovations; 
  • Projecting ‘Master Trainers’ on natural farming; 
  • Narrative expressions of comparative study on health parameters in conventional vs Natural-farmed villages/wards; 
  • Technical support from the Revitalizing Rainfed Agriculture Network (e.g. Seed Group, Millet Group, Livestock Group, state chapters).

What are the Limiting factors? 

  • Shortage of local (indigenous) breed for the cattle; 
  • Losses of standing crops due to damages by stray animals; 
  • Insufficient rainwater conservation; 
  • Lack of staff needed to have a wider coverage; 
  • Lack of funds, especially for human resources.

Relevant links

D.K. Sadana, Sukhdev Vishwapremi and Anoop Kumar, Nurturing family, biodiversity and agroecology, 2023, LEISA India


  • D. K. Sadana, Indigenous Livestock Society-India (ILSI), and Chair of HimRRA: 
  • Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development (CORD) 
  • Watershed Support Services and Activities Network (WASSAN) 
  • Rural Technical Development Cooperation (RTDC)

Picture credits: D.K. Sadana