Technology Helps Revive Lost Millet Varieties In Kerala  

By Naina Gautam December 18, 2023

Lenovo develops a tech-based prototype model for millet revival and establish market linkages benefiting farming communities in Kanthalloor 

Technology Helps Revive Lost Millet Varieties In Kerala  
25 farmers were selected by the panchayat from the tribal settlement for the programme. 25 early adopter farmers participated. More than half are women. Lenovo

When United Nations declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets at the behest of India, it marked the beginning of the comeback of traditional millets in the country. The benefits of millets range from health to the environment.

Riding the sustainability wave in the country, Lenovo, a global technology powerhouse, too, took to the revival of millets as part of its corporate activity. Its Work for Humankind Initiative has enabled six millet varieties -- finger millet, kodo millet, proso millet, foxtail millet, little millet and barnyard millet – to make a comeback in Kanthalloor, Kerala.

Branded Kanthalloor Millets, these six varieties are expected to make their way to the kitchens and tables of local homestays and Anganwadi schools as a result of Lenovo’s tech-based prototype model to revive millet cultivation, ease millet production processes, and create market linkages.

Pratima Harite, Lenovo’s Asia Pacific head of CSR and philanthropy, says, “It is about smarter technology for all.  Farmers seemed to have no access to technology.  Keeping it in mind, we started the project to revive millets in a place where it was grown in the past. 18 varieties were grown 30-40 years ago, which had come to only two varieties of millets of late.”

An important milestone for the initiative was the setting up the Lenovo Digital Centre for Kanthalloor Millets at the IHRD College for Applied Sciences, Kanthalloor, to ensure that the community had access to technology tools to succeed under the project. The centre has enabled the farming community to use digital access. It has emerged as the hub for important information about government schemes like state crop insurance, crop diversification schemes, subsidies, peer learning, and sharing insights on millet cultivation methods. Today, farmers in Kanthalloor use smartphones to access information and stay connected with the digital centre, volunteers, and the community.

The centre also gathers information related to best practices related to sowing, reaping, harvesting, soil testing, satellite imaginary and data driven analysis. Virtual calls and trainings are conducted. There are 13 wards, some deep into the forest. Support from local bodies was also sought for millet revival. Motorola phones are provided to the farmers. User friendly and local language support is provided. Processing centres are also there. Since millets vary in their physical properties, the machines need to be versatile to handle all the grains and this is done by electronic intervention.

Strategies were developed on how to build market linkages. Tie-up with an e- commerce platform like was also explored.  The local homestays were also explored as marketplace for millets. 75 homestays have signed up. Mid day meals of millet and self help group like Kudambshree have also been made part of the ecosystem.

Lenovo has also announced a partnership with Samudra Network and Agri App to digitise the agricultural value chain specific to millet farming in Kanthalloor. This includes crop detail tracking, digitisation of processing operations for quality control, and market catalogue creation.

“At Lenovo, we believe our smarter technology solutions have the power to bridge the digital divide and create a more inclusive world with lasting impact. Our Work for Humankind initiative in Kanthalloor is a testament to this belief. With support from Dream India Network, we have empowered farmers to harness the magic of technology to revive millet cultivation and make them market-ready. Kanthalloor is a testament to the fact that access to technology can transform communities and even revive lost traditions,” says Harite.

25 farmers were selected by the panchayat from the tribal settlement for the programme. 25 early adopter farmers participated. More than half are women. The processing units are managed by women.  Six varieties  of millets have been sowed and revived on 14 acres of land.

Kanth Mohandas, Kanthalloor Gram Panchayat President, says, “Millet is part of Kanthalloor’s history, and we are glad to have revived our traditional farming practices with the help of modern technology. This is yet another feather in the cap of Kanthalloor, which recently won Gold for Best Tourism Village in Kerala from the Central government. The Gram Panchayat will support and nurture this initiative long-term.”

As part of the initiative, Lenovo has also set up a millet processing centre run by women members of the Kudumbashree Self-Help Group in Kanthalloor. The processing centre offers services to the farming community and purchases the millet from farmers, ensuring timely payments for the produce. The facility will also be a seed bank and sales hub for Kanthalloor millets.

(The writer was in Kanthalloor, Kerala, at the invitation of Lenovo.)