Ucodal Salama Pre-cooked Fonio
You may not have heard of fonio, but it is Africa’s oldest cereal. For the Dogon people of Mali, fonio is “the seed of the universe” – an appropriate name considering its high nutritional value, and adaptability to the region’s soil and climate. From Lake Chad to the savannah regions of Senegal and Guinea, fonio is an important source of food for some 4 million people across West Africa. In Senegal, Wula Nafaa, a program funded by USAID in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, is helping women fonio producers access processing machines and improve the quality of their product. (Photo credit: Richard Nyberg/USAID) It is one of the most nutritious of all grains. Fonio is rich in important amino acids – not found in wheat, rice, maize, or sorghum – such as methionine and cystine, which help synthesize protein. And its low sugar content makes fonio an ideal food for people with diabetes. The plant can tolerate poor soils, which are often too infertile for other cereals, like sorghum and pearl millet. Given its adaptability, fonio is widely cultivated across the Fouta Djallon Plateau of Guinea, because it can grow on acidic soils with a high aluminum content that is harmful to other crops. And when low rainfall makes it difficult for farmers in Sierra Leone to grow rice in their paddies, they often turn to fonio to protect them from total crop failure. Fonio is also among the world’s fastest maturing cereals. Crops produce grains as quickly as 6 to 8 weeks after being planted, and are ready to be harvested long before most other grains. During Africa’s hungry season, when farmers are waiting for other crops to mature, fonio becomes the “grain of life.” It is this property that gives fonio its popular English name, “hungry rice.” But people also grow fonio because they love how it tastes.