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Fonio

General Introduction
Though most of us are unaware about this little cereal grain, it is widely popular in Africa where it serves a large population from the threats of starvation. A boon for this dark continent has now started spreading its wings towards the rest of the world. Equipped with immense qualities, Fonio continues to rule and nourish the stomachs of all Africans.

Interestingly the cereal which scares away the hungry pangs of millions of people is itself called "hungry Rice". Fonio is grown in West Africa and due to its small grain size it has always been sidelined as a marginal crop. In West Africa they say "that the best way to judge a woman's stamina—essential in a good wife—is to watch her preparing fonio". But the cultivation of fonio

is disappearing because, as the saying implies, preparing it is a painstaking task of immense difficulty. Each kilogram of fonio contains around two million small seeds each weighing only 0.0005 grams. Now the task begins like this, two thin husks surround each seed, and its only after these are removed, fonio can be cooked.

With growing concerns on cash inflow, West African women now concentrate on earning cash and therefore hardly any time is devoted to this tedious job of cooking fonio. And this is where sorghum, millets and maize come into light and that's where fonio loses.

Scientifically known as Digitaria exilis, Fonio survives and grow effectively in the sandy and rocky soils of Sahel. It shows great adaptability to diverse weather conditions and thrives well in both drought and flood equally. Surprisingly it grows so fast that farmers can benefit great profits by sowing it twice or thrice an year.

 

Uses

  • Commonly known as findo, findi or acha(hungry rice), fonio serves as a great food security to the poor people of developing countries of Africa
  • The grain, straw and chaff are used for animal fodder
  • The straw is sometimes chopped and mixed with clay to make bricks and this helps in strengthening the bricks
  • White fonio is primarily grown in Guinea and it is a staple for people living in the mountain regions of Fouta Djalon
  • A potential crop which improves nutrition, boosts food security, fosters rural development and supports sustainable land care
  • It is used to make porridge and couscous
  • It is grounded and mixed with other flours to bake breads
  • It is also popular as a key ingredient in beer after it is popped and brewed
  • It is a great substitute for semolina in the making of pastas and shortbread biscuits.
 

Types of Fonio

White Fonio
It is the most important cereal of a diverse group of wild and domesticated Digitaria species.

It is harvested in the savannas of west Africa. It is one of the primary cereals of southern Sudan and Ethiopia in Africa.With great potential to improve nutrition and boost food security it has been now identified by scientists to be of relevance and therefore to exploit its various qualities it is gaining immense popularity in the European countries as well.


Black Fonio (D. iburua)

It is a similar crop which is grown in Nigeria, Togo, and Benin. The black fonio is an ornamental gramineae. While growing they develop in a round-shape shrub. This plant in the spring, summer, autumn, winter assumes a green white coloring; it is medium in size and can reach 2 m high. It keeps its leaves in the winter.
 

Raishan (D. compacta)
It is a minor cereal, only grown in the Khasi Hills of northeast India, with glutinous flour used to make bread or porridge.

FONIO Project
Despite its economic and cultural benefits, fonio still has not gained the kind of status that it is entitled to. Although with the advancing scientific researches fonio has attracted mass attention due to its taste and varied nutritional properties. So much so that to promote this cereal, The European Union is funding an international research campaign which is dedicated to promote the competitive spirit of fonio commodity chain in West Africa.

The main motive of this project named FONIO is to target the wide masses of consumers so that its taste reaches worldwide. Recognition by the consumers will enforce fonio cultivation to a greater extent. The Dual objective that drives this campaign is to boost local competitiveness and to enable fonio products to be qualified enough for exporting purposes. If the campaign turns out to be a success then fonio could give other cereals a run for their prices.
 

Nutritional Value

  • Highly rich in amino acids and iron, its tiny grains are very nutritious for pregnant women and children.
  • The husked grain of fonio contains 8-10 % proteins, 85% carbohydrates, 4% fats and 1% ash.
  • Fonio grains are immensely rich in methionine, cystine and other amino acids which play a vital role in nourishing human health. These nutrients are missing in today's major cereals.
  • The protein analysis of white fonio in comparison with a whole egg is: 7.3 percent of methionine, 46 percent of lysine, 72% isoleucine, 90-100% of valine, tryptophan, threonine, and phenylalanine, 127% of leucine; 175% of total sulfur; and 189 percent for methionine.
  • Furthermore, fonio does not contain any glutenin or gliadin proteins which are the constituents of gluten, making this cereal suitable for people with gluten intolerance.

Interesting Facts
In the Malian Dogon tribe's legend of the origin and creation of the universe, the fonio grain, is also known as po, which means the "germ of the world". According to their mythology the supreme creator of the universe, Amma, made the entire universe by exploding a single grain of fonio, located inside the "egg of the world"

A Fonio husking machine was invented by Sanoussi Diakité, a Senegalese mechanical engineer. Diakité was awarded the Rolex Award in 1996 for the invention. And why not loking at the painstaking preparation of fonio dish this award seems greatly justified. As this invention brings a sigh of relief to millions of fonio lovers.

Recipes

Pilaf Fonio
In fry oil, brown meat thin sliced onions, garlic and parsley crushed, tomatoes peeled, deseeded and cut and the tomato purée. Add salt and add 2 litres of water, spices and herbs and simmer for about 1 hour. At mid-time cooking, add vegetables washed and regularly cut. Take out the vegetables as they are cooked and set aside in a serving dish. Cook the meat well and take one to two ladles of bouillon and remove the meat. Add to the vegetables and keep it hot. “Sprinkle” precooked fonio in the remaining bouillon while stirring; the bouillon must cover fonio. Cover the cooking pot and simmer while stirring from time to time. Serve hot with vegetables, meat (chicken or fish)

Foyo recipe

Djouka fonio recipe

Desserts such as fritters or cakes.

Fonio fritter recipe

Fonio cakes recipe and many more.