Smart Food is a multi-stakeholder system led by the south.

We have a Vision that our food is ‘Smart’ – healthy, sustainable on the environment and good for those who produce it especially the smallholder farmer.

We can have a big impact if we diversify staples.

But we can’t do this with just any food, it needs to be with a Smart Food i.e. food that fills all criteria of being

Good for you
Good for the planet
Good for the farmer

This requires dedicated effort on just a couple of Smart Foods initially to build the value chains for mainstreaming.

Millets & Sorghum are selected as the first Smart Foods to bring back as staples and have a major impact on nutrition, environment and rural livelihoods.

Announcement: The UN General Assembly unanimously declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets.

Dr Sanjay Agrawal, Government of India, Secretary of Agriculture tweet:

Learn more about the International Year of Millets.

Prime Minister Modi speaks out about the value of millet

Dryland cereals like millets and sorghum, and grain legumes are Smart Food.

How are they Good for You?

These Smart Food crops are highly nutritious and target some of the largest micronutrient deficiencies and needs, especially of women and children.

For example:

  • Iron and zinc – Pearl millet has very high levels and bioavailability studies have shown that they will provide the average person’s daily requirement of iron and zinc.
  • Calcium – Finger millet has 3 times the amount compared to milk.
  • Affordable protein – provided by grain legumes and together with millets and sorghum they create complete protein.
  • Low Glycemic Index – which means escalating levels of diabetes – can be avoided or managed by sorghum and millets because they have low Glycemic Index.
  • High antioxidants – Fights against heart diseases, life style disorders and cancer
  • High Fibre
  • Gluten Free

How are they Good for the Planet?

  • Legumes have an important contibutrion to soil nutrition
  • Millets have a low carbo footprint
  • Serve as a mitigation and adaptation strategy for climate change.

How are they Good for the Smallholder farmer?

Smart Food are good for the small holder farmers because

  • Survive in high temperatures
  • Survive with very little water; pearl millet often described as the last crop standing in times of drought
  • Their climate resilience means they are a good risk managemetn strategy
  • Their multiple uses and untapped demand means they have a lot more potential
  • Unlike other crops, they have not reached a yield plateau and have great potential for productivity increases.

Given that staples may typically constitute 70 per cent of a meal and are often eaten three times a day, diversifying them can have a pronounced impact on overcoming malnutrition and poverty and coping with climate change and environmental degradation.

The major constraints

The major constraints for these dryland cereals and grain legumes that are holding them back from reaching their full potential are – very little investment, significantly underdeveloped value chains, and the image of the food as old fashioned, especially the case for millets and sorghum.

More investment and policy support have significant potential to increase yields, provide better nutrition, fulfill multiple uses (food, feed, biofuels, brewing), develop modern processed food products and integrate farmers into the value chain.

The approach

We need a dedicated focused effort initially on a couple of Smart Foods to not just popularize but bring into mainstream. The strategy adopted to achieve this involves:

  1. Developing the Smart Food concept and messaging through scientifically backed information, marketing strategies and materials, and classification and accreditation of Smart Food.
  2. Creating a demand pull with consumers for smart food by undertaking a viral campaign, facilitating processing of modern convenience products with smart foods, and facilitating engagement with the health, food service and media industries.
  3. Ensuring that smallholder farmers and rural communities in Asia and Africa benefit by providing on-farm support, connecting farmers to value chains, linking Smart Food with health activities on the ground, and advocacy for policy support, research and development.
  4. Filling the Knowledge gaps: Identify and address the gaps and scientific research needs on how these food affect you (nutrition and health), the planet, the farmer and the whole value chain (cooking, processing, marketing).

Smart Food Executive Council is led by:


Smart Food millet efforts in India are undertaken in collaboration with:


Learn more, see:

Millet Recipes

Millet Finder

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