As millets making a slow but steady comeback, Icrisat has said it would have a special focus on millets, which it considers ‘smart crops’, considered the life-line of small and marginal farmers in semi-arid areas.

Headquartered at Patancheru near here, the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics has said sorghum, pearl and finger millets are among the mandate crops.

Asked about institute’s strategy for millets, which had been off track due to lack of policy support, Icrisat’s Director-General David Bergvinson has said that millets played a crucial role for countries such as India, with a large number of small and marginal farmers.

“They are rich in nutrition and consume less water. These water- efficient crops are relevant for India. They help farmers face the changes in climate,” he said.

David Bergvinson has taken over as the new Director-General of the institute, replacing William Dar, who headed the institute for about 15 years. Prior to this appointment, he worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle (US), handling crop value chains and digital design for agriculture development.

Priority areas Icrisat has gathered about 6,000 finger millet germplasm accessions from 24 countries for conservation and research and development. He said his immediate priorities as the head of the institute was to focus on demand-driven innovation and to make agriculture viable for farmers.

“On my agenda include developing partnerships to achieve the missions. We would like to help small farmers in accessing markets and financial services making technology as a vehicle,” he said.