New HarvestPlus Working Paper
Indian farmer shows two varieties of pearl millet. Photo: E. Birol

As HarvestPlus moves forward with releasing nutrient-rich crops in several countries, it is important to understand how farmers make decisions on which varieties of crops they will grow. A new HarvestPlus Working Paper presents results from a study looking at how Indian farmers’ choose their favorite pearl millet varieties.

Over 9 million hectares of pearl millet is grown in India every year, making it one of the country’s most important crops. HarvestPlus, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), and other Indian partners are developing an iron-rich variety of pearl millet that is set to be released next year to farmers in the pearl millet-growing region of Maharashtra.

Researchers were interested in understanding farmers’ valuation of the added nutritional value characteristic of high-iron pearl millet. This study and its results will provide important insights into farmers’ preferences for high-iron pearl millet and will ensure that delivery and marketing strategies are targeted to the farmers who will benefit most from this nutrient-rich crop.

This study collected information from over 600 farm households in Maharashtra, India. Farmers were asked to evaluate different pearl millet varieties using a choice experiment. They had to choose from a sample of varieties that had different characteristics, including added nutritional value, days to maturity, color of the roti (Indian flatbread) the pearl millet grain produced, and price of the seed.

Researchers found that farmers tend to fall into three groups based on their preferences. Among these groups, farmers who have larger households and produce pearl millet primarily to eat at home may be the best target for high-iron pearl millet since they place the greatest value on its added iron content.

“The results of this study emphasize the importance of taking into account how farmers choose pearl millet varieties before we start delivering the new variety,” says Ekin Birol, lead author of the paper and Impact and Policy Manager at HarvestPlus. “All farmers are not created equal, and we need to develop several strategies to appeal to the different types of farmers and households.”

Click here to download the Working Paper, A Latent Class Approach to Investigating Farmer Demand for Biofortified Staple Food Crops in Developing Countries: The Case of High-Iron Pearl Millet in Maharashtra, India.

The HarvestPlus Working Papers series contain preliminary material and research results that have been reviewed by at least one external reviewer. They are circulated in order to stimulate discussion and critical comment. Click here for a complete list.