The Revalorisation of Small Millets in South Asia (RESMISA) project was initiated in 2013, focusing on the Tanamalwila and Wellawaya areas of the Arthacharya network with funding from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in
The main objective of the project was to increase food security and food availability in poor families in marginal areas of the dry zone where the small farmers are mostly dependent on rainfed agriculture.
According to GLORDC in Angunakolapelessa, 83 per cent of the farmers are all but marginal farmers who have no access to any major or minor irrigation. They are totally dependent on the seasonal monsoon rains, which are often erratic and unreliable. The vagaries of rainfall in this relatively arid area often challenge the family's food security and food availability, thus subjecting the poor to high levels of stunting and wasting malnutrition among children. Besides, malnutrition has severely affected pregnant and lactating mothers as well as the old and feeble. It is well known that despite the impressive social indicators Sri Lanka has recorded during the last few decades, its record profile on malnutrition has been poor across the country.
Against this backdrop, Resmisa’s specific objective was to revalorize small millet cultivation that both the authorities and the farmers had neglected due to various reasons. Various historical records of Sri Lanka have established that small millets played an almost equal role in the diet of the people in the
period prior to colonization. The lack of attention paid by the authorities caused the dwindling of the small millet cultivations from 95,000 ha in 1948 to 5,000 ha at the time of project initiation. The aridness-resilient crop guaranteed food availability and food security during harsh times in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. The policy shift the authorities made for cash crops and paddy giving them the highest priority brought imbalance to the family food supply and security.
Arthacharya, through the project, tried to build a replicable model to resuscitate small millet through a series of interventions right along the value chain. While identifying the more productive indigenous varieties through the partnership it officially had with the Department of Agriculture, the project also provided space for the breeding of new varieties. The project also tried to introduce new technology to improve processing while it had educational programmes to popularize it among school children and housewives. Arthacharya’s sister organisation, AIL, provided credit for the farmers who required capital to expand their small millet cultivations.
The donors, IDRC and CIDA, had given the project an international dimension when they promoted the same programme, especially in South India, Bangladesh and Nepal. A key component of the project was the platform created for the participating country programmes to interact with one another through exposure visits, conferences and research action. The donors also involved seven Canadian universities, while similar institutions were mobilised locally by the participating NGOs in the four countries.
Engaged in poverty reduction Arthacharya is an organisation which focuses only on the poorest of the poor in the society. Also, it is definitely not yet another service delivery operation.
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