International Fonio Day
Today is International Fonio Day. Let's take a look at Mali.
Originally from West Africa, fonio (Digitaria exilis), a small cultivated grass, is considered to be the oldest cereal crop consumed. Traditionally grown to alleviate cereal shortages during droughts, fonio is now a cash crop with a high monetary value. However, the development of the fonio sector has been hampered by difficult harvests, particularly as the grains are only one millimetre long.
As a gluten-free, protein-rich food, fonio is recommended as a dietetic food, as it has important nutritional qualities and contributes to food and nutritional security. Fonio is also important in socio-cultural terms (used for festive meals and sacrifices), therapeutic terms (recommended by doctors for people suffering from diabetes and obesity because of its low glycaemic index) and agroecological terms (drought-resistant, fonio adapts well to local climatic conditions and helps to preserve the environment by providing plant cover for poor soils) and economic terms (given its low production cost, fonio is very profitable for producers and helps to overcome hunger periods as it is the first cereal of the new season to reach maturity). Fonio straw, with its high fodder value, is also used for livestock. In Mali, consumption of fonio has increased in towns and cities over the last 20 years, thanks to its availability in supermarkets.
In recent years, thanks to the determination of the Malian government and its development partners, fonio has become an emerging crop that creates jobs. As part of the bilateral cooperation between Mali and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, LuxDev has been supporting the fonio sector since the 2015-2016 agricultural season through its Rural development and food security programme.
LuxDev's support focuses specifically on:
- access to suitable seeds;
- storage warehouses;
- equipment adapted to post-harvest and processing operations;
- structuring of stakeholders (producers, processors and traders) to improve the organisation of the various interests.
In particular, this support has boosted production in the Ségou region from 10,596 to 17,532 tonnes between 2015 and 2022, representing a 40% increase in national production. Processing and hygiene conditions have also been improved, in line with health standards for 50 micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, while access to local, sub-regional and international markets has been facilitated.
In view of climate change, marked by the early cessation of rainfall and instability in the production of the most widely consumed cereals, such as wheat, fonio, thanks to its hardy nature, is a cereal with a real future, a prodigious African seed to feed the world.↑ Haut de la page