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About the Programme

Conservation of Biodiversity has been focus areas of MSSRF since inception. The activities included research; interventions involving communities to promote agro-biodiversity conservation; enhancing food security; capacity of communities; demonstrating models; and policy advocacy. The programme approached the problems always with principles of the local participation, gender equality, empowering the vulnerable, self-reliance of local communities, social equity, blending modern and traditional knowledge in the programme. The underlying objective has been sustainable enhancement of livelihood, food nutrition security of marginalized sections of rural communities including vulnerable communities in the biodiversity hotspots of peninsular India.

VISION: Ensuring a society with food and nutrition security along with health and ecological security sustaining and maintaining Agrobiodiversity

MISSION: End hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and health through conservation and sustainable utilisation of agrobiodiversity, promote sustainable agriculture and empower marginal communities

OBJECTIVE: To promote sustainable management of agro biodiversity to enhance household availability, access and consumption of diverse and nutritious food for improving nutrition and health status of target population in priority areas thereby strengthening resilience

Priority Areas

The programme will continue its efforts in current areas of operation and strengthen activities in areas where the Foundation already has a presence. In addition, the Foundation will also expand work in new area where its contribution is seen as strategic as in the other areas and doable as well. Currently, the geographic area of activities of biodiversity management and food and nutrition security are in Kolli Hills, Namakkal district, Tamil Nadu; Koraput district, Odisha and Wayanad district, Kerala. In addition to the ongoing work in these sites, Agrobiodiversity and Hunger hotspots in Eastern Ghats and Western Ghats and rainfed regions in hilly tracts and dryland plains are being explored for possible work expansion. The marginalized sections of tribal and rural population are/will be the target groups. In addition, other field areas of operation of the Foundation will be explored in alignment with other programme areas; new PAN programme proposals will be prepared for raising funds and activities initiated in alignment with thematic area of the programme.

Our Focus

The major focus of agro biodiversity activities are:

  1. Integrating on-farm Conservation and Cultivation with promotion of sustainable Consumption
  2. Commerce of PGRs with focus on sustainable food security
  3. Creation of an economic stake in conservation
  4. Protection of Farmers Rights and Traditional Knowledge related to agro biodiversity with an aim to facilitate access and benefit sharing.

Several donor agencies have supported the programme since its inception nearly three decades ago with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and IDRC being the biggest donors. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in the early part of the last decade followed by DFID and Bioversity International in a decade later supported promotion of millets notably finger millet and its value addition through training and capacity building in Kolli Hills. Over the last 25 years we received support from SDC, IDRC, IFAD, DST, DBT, NABARD and Ministry of Environment and Forest and Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, National Biodiversity Authority and Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers’ Rights Authority have helped and continue our programme in community capacity building in Koraput in Odisha, Kolli Hills in Tamil Nadu and Wayanad in Kerala.

Research interventions under agro-biodiversity conservation and management focussed on delivering scientifically generated evidences about value of genetic diversity of crop plants for ecosystem conservation efforts and the agro-ecosystem functions and its importance. The programme engages in activities that address the SDGs, in particular SDG2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG3 (Good Health and Well-being) and SDG 15 (Life on Land). The approach will encompass SDG5 (Gender Equality) and SDG13 (Climate Action) as underlying cross-cutting themes. This will in turn contribute to the national efforts of India to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets 13 and 14, which advocate the contracting parties to maintain and safeguard the ecosystems that provide essential services and genetic diversity of cultivated plants including the wild relatives, other socio-economically and culturally valuable species with minimum genetic erosion, needed for sustainable development.


The approach and strategies to achieve the stated objective will focus on:

Methods, approaches and tools for sustainable management of production systemsto strengthen Community Resilience, Nutrition security and climate adaptation through promotion and management of:

  • Plant genetic resources, Wild Foods, Nutritive and Underutilized species, Non-wood forest produce, medicinal plants and Agroforestry
  • Informal Seed systems and Genetic gardens
  • On farm diversity for greater productivity and nutrition yield through through agro-ecological guided packages focusing on nutritious local crops and sustainable cultivating practices
  • Technology for post-harvest processing
  • Nutri-Sensitive Value Chains and diversified markets
  • Building of capacities on Biodiversity, Agro biodiversity and Farmers rights Policies and Agro ecological Principles and Practices

Implementation Strategy

  1. The strategy for achieving the focal themes will be under four strands, viz. Research for Development, Capacity Development, Promoting Grassroots Institutions and Research Uptake and Advocacy
  2. Research for Development:
  • Research focusing on Agro-biodiversity, NUS crops, Wild relatives, Wild Foods and Farming Systems
  • Policy Analysis on Agro-biodiversity, Food and Nutrition Security
  • Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation for action research
  • Community agro-biodiversity management
  1. Capacity Development: Preparation of training materials on the theme; identify target groups (Custodian Farmers, School children, SHGs, Farmers, KVK officials, PRI members, Opinion leaders), Capacity development of Stakeholders

iii. Promoting Grassroots Institutions: build capacity for collective action to realise intended outcomes

  1. Research Uptake and Advocacy:
  • Stakeholder engagement at different levels from grass root community level to district, state, national, regional and global levels
  • Developing research uptake products
  • Research dissemination
  • Policy Advocacy

Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (PAME) of activities will be an integral component inbuilt into all the implementation strands.

B. Linkage with Other Programme Areas

  • Eco-technology: Pre-and Post-harvest processing technologies and agri-food value chain development
  • Biotechnology: Diversity estimates, Charterisation and Gene bank repositories, Lab to land initiatives: Bio-inputs to enhance agro-biodiversity management and sustainable livelihoods
  • Cross-cutting linkages: Climate adaptation and mitigation science; Gender, IEC, GRIs, Policy level interventions

Work Locations

The intervention locations

The intervention locations are: Wayanad district in the Malabar region of Kerala, Koraput district in the Jeypore tracts of Odisha, and Kolli hills in Namakkal district of Tamil Nadu. The selected sites are in the category of backward locations identified by the Government of India and fall in 22 hotspots of Agrobiodiversity listed by the PPVFR Authority.

Wayanad district of Kerala

Wayanad a steep mountainous plateau in the Western Ghats with vast forest cover, extensive rice fields and high concentration of tribal communities, is an agrobiodiversity as well as a poverty hotspot for the tribal communities like Paniya, Adiyaand Kattunaikka. The district is a site rich in biodiversity as evidenced by over 2100 flowering plants with 52 Red Data Species and 650 endemic plant species of Western Ghats. It is one of the 150 economically most backward districts of India with a total of 173529 BPL card holders. The tribal communities constitute 17.43% of the total population of the district, which is the highest share of Adivasi population (about 36%) of Kerala.

Koraput district of Odisha

Koraput district is one of the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage sites (GIAHs) identified by FAO for maintaining unique tribal traditional agricultural practices, conservation and utilization of inherited traditional knowledge for local food security vis-à-vis cultural diversity . Approximately 62 tribal communities are inhabitants of this region constituting 50.6% of the total population of district. Each tribe possesses its distinct identity in terms of social organization, culture, and language. The dominant tribes of the district are Bhumia, Gadaba, Khond,and Paroja who are traditionally ingenious rice cultivators. The region is one of the centers of origin and genetic diversity of Asian cultivated rice.

Kolli Hills of Tamil Nadu

Kolli hills are a hill range covering an area of 280 sq.km constituting the southern- most edge of the Eastern Ghats of India. The hillock situated in Namakkal district of Tamil Nadu is about 1300 m from msl and inhabited by a single tribal community known as the Malayali. The word Malayali means people inhabiting hillocks. They are predominantly agriculturists, engaged in cultivation of a variety of food crops like cereals, millets, pulses, oil seeds, fruits and vegetables. The Malayali community practices two types of agriculture- one that is irrigated mainly through natural springs and the other is rain-fed agriculture.

Achievements & Publications

Consolidated account on achievements in the area of Agro biodiversity across three locations viz. Jeypore (JY) Odisha, Kolli Hills (KH) Tamil Nadu and Wayanad (WY) Kerala are below:

Species and Varieties conserved on-farm:
 JY – Paddy (136), Millets (\) (50), Vegetables & Fruits (69) and Tubers (13) and Pulses (16) conserved on-farm and 384 species of medicinal plants
KH – Varieties of Millet (15), Spices (9), Banana (5), Spices (4), Pulses (10), Oil Seeds (2), Tubers (3), Vegetables (11), Fruits (10), Cash Crops (6)
WY – Varieties of Rice (20), Tuber (36), Medicinal Plants (70), Pepper (26) Pulses (20), Citrus (10), Wild Leafy Vegetables (30), RET Species (110), Medicinal Plants (15), Turmeric (3), Banana (27) – On-farm for consumption and local markets and Farmer Producer company
Seed banks Nurtured:
 JY -17 Community Seed Banks and One (01) Central Seed Bank in the Campus
 KH – 15 Community Seed banks maintained by communities
 WY – 20 Seed Villages – Traditional varieties are produced and Custodian Farmers
Improved Agronomic practices demonstrated:
JY- Seed Treatment, IPM, INM, IDM, SMI, LT, LS, Intercropping, demonstrated in Millets, Rice, Pulses and Vegetables
KH – Varietal demonstration, Intercropping, Line sowing in Millets, Rice Pulses, Tapioca, Banana
WY- SRI for Rice, Modified System of rice intensification (Rainy Season), Raised bed method and Intercropping – Elephant Foot Yam
Yield enhancement of varieties realised:
JY – On an average 35% yield enhanced in millet and 25% in case of rice.
 KH – 33 % of Yield enhanced in millets and 30 % pulses
WY – 25 % in yield in Rice varieties and 20 % EFY
Improved Technologies Scaled up on farm:
JY -1850 acres covered under improved technologies like – SMI (564) and LT (1286) acres
KH – 500 Acres line sowing, 250 Acres of varietal demonstrations, 250 Acres of intercropping
WY – SRI and Modified Rice Planting in Rice
Integrated Agroforestry, Homestead Farming and Mixed Crops Farms extended
 JY – Agriculture based model and Aqua based model extended to 100 farm families
KH – 1500 acres of Integrated Multi-tier farming system developed and 2800 Home Nutrition garden extended
WY – 800 Acres of Agroforestry developed, 500 acres of Homestead farming, 200 Mixed cropping farms with fruit trees, coffee, pepper, roots and tuber and vegetables in Kerala

Farmer Producer Companies promoted:

 JY: Three (03) FPOs in Koraput District and One (01) in Ganjam District formed with 800 members.
KH – One FPO in Kolli Hills dealing with Spices, Millet and Fruits with 583 tribal members
WY – One FPO in Wayanad dealing with Spices, Rice and Vegetables with 300 memberships
Farmers groups and Self-Help Groups nurtured
JY – 92 Farmers groups formed as CBOs
KH – 110 groups of Women and Men as CBOs
WY – 35 groups Kudumbashri SHGs are linked
Processing units established:
JY –10 Pre-cleaning and processing units established for finger millets.
KH – 15 processing units of Millets, Pulses, Rice
WY -2 Processing units – 17 Species are of Medicinal plants
Agrobiodiversity based products developed:
·JY: Ten (10) Products developed – Millet Laddu, malt, chikli, mixture, sweets, Jackfruit chips, tamarind briquettes, kalajeera processed rice, little millet, foxtail millets and barnyard millet processed rice.
KH – 18 Value Added Products of Millets and Pulses and Spices; Developed “Millet Market” android app” in partnership with IIMR
WY – Jackfruits chips, Wild Mango Pickles, Bamboo shoots, Gandasala, Thondi, Veliyan, Jeerakasala rice, Honey
Botanical gardens established:
JY – Tribal Botanical Garden conserved & protected 384 medicinal plant species and 94 Crop genetic resources
§WY – MSS Botanical garden harbors 1600 species in natural environment
Peoples Biodiversity Register developed:
JY – 17 PBRs and 36 BMCs formed
 KH – 1 Block level PBR and 1 BMC formed, Heritage sites recommended under TNSBB
WY – 5 PBR developed and 5 MBCs formed
FAO -GIAHS study 2020: A study was conducted and submitted a report on the Globally Important Agriculture Heritage system in Koraput and Kuttanad to bring to attention of FAO on the impacts of declaration as GIAHS site.
FAO- GFAR Forgotten crops study 2021. MSSRF has contributed to the development of South Asia Manifesto on Forgotten Crops. This effort has helped to develop Global Manifesto on Forgotten crops, Plan of Action and Community Practices around the world.



Stories of Change

All Stories
Enhancing conservation and use of nutritious and underutilised millets in family farms

Landraces of millets are preferred by farm families since time immemorial not only for their high nutritional qualities, but also inherent capacities to withstand weather changes, and for pest and disease resistant traits. Although, these crops are part of the food culture in Kolli hills (Eastern Ghats of Tamil Nadu), over the last three decades farmers have moved to cultivating cash crops like cassava, coffee and pepper.

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Improving the lives of Malayali tribes in Eastern Ghats

Tribes are from the underprivileged section of society and often live in marginal physical environment. Migration is a significant phenomenon among Malyali tribes. Small land holdings, lack of work, and higher wages prompt them to migrate in search of livelihood. Additionally, growing cash crops abundantly has reduced their access to fruits, vegetables and millets that once grew in their fields.

Read More

Publications and Newsletters

International Conference 2021

This fortnight e-synergy has some of the eminent participants’ videos who speak on various issues related to food and agriculture.

MSSRF Annual Report 2020-2021

Thirty-First Annual Report

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