Nepal: Women’s Work! Millet cultivation in rural village

As I write this, David and Binod are still hiking from one village to another to participate in the singing competition to promote awareness for the need for improvement in women’s health in rural villages in Nepal. While they do that, I thought we’d take a look at the daily life of these rural women who are the focus of this program. They work very hard from dawn till well after dark to grow food in their subsistence way of life.

Binod has put a couple of videos on You tube that will help us to take a peep at their daily life. Today we’ll look at Millet cultivation. I’ve taken some photos from the video to help tell the story (video links below).

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Todo millet, or finger millet, is important here as it provides nourishing food to these subsistence farmers. It’s rich in protien, fiber and minerals and vitamins,  a good substitute for, and addition to, rice or wheat.

In a world desperate for good, healthy foods, most people have never heard of Kodo. It’s usually looked upon as a “poor man’s crop” or a “famine food.” In the ‘developed world’, it’s often used only as birdseed! But researchers are finding that it has many benefits for good health; it’s rich in iron, B vitamins and calcium and is naturally gluten-free. It’s a versatile addition to the diet with its mildly corn flavour. It has a light texture when cooked and is relatively quick-cooking because of the small size of the seed.

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The shallow root system of finger millet makes it ideal for intercropping between the corn plants. Here, Binod works alongside the women and gets a feel for the work involved in this backbreaking task that takes hours to complete.

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They take a well earned rest and drink.

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Kodo millet is a member of the paspalum family, Paspalum scrobiculatum. It’s an annual grass that has slender, light green leaves of 20 to 40 centimeters in length.

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When mature, the plant has an inflorescence that produces several racemes.

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The harvested seeds are very small and vary in colour from light brown to a dark grey. This ancient seed, originally hailing from Africa, is a staple in the diets of about a third of the world’s population. The seeds need to be ground into flour to be used in cooking.

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To see the grinding process, Binod heads in the pouring rain to a house in the village.

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Here, the lady uses a traditional hand grinding mill, or janto, to grind seeds into flour.

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Seeds are poured into the centre of the mill a handful at a time. It’s hard work.

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A little one takes a nap on Mum’s lap while she grinds the seeds.

A woman’s work in these rural villages is never done!

Binod’s videos bring this aspect of life for rural Nepalese women into focus for us. I hope that you can get these You Tube links to work for you.

Video links:

Participation in finger millet (Kodo) cultivation with community people – You Tube

Traditional hand mill (flour mill), (Janto) – the rural village women use this technology everyday – You Tube


More of rural Nepalese village life next time.

David (and Jennie)

All photographs and video copyright © Binod Bindu Sharma

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