Fonio is the term for two cultivated grasses in the genus Digitaria that are notable crops in parts of West Africa. They are millets with small grains. They have C4 carbon fixation as in many other grasses. They are medium in height. The ploidy level for the species range from diploid (2n), tetraploid (4n), to hexaploid (6n).
Fonio is consumed mainly in the West African countries, where it is also cultivated. The global fonio market was 673,000 tonnes in 2016. The name fonio (borrowed by English from French) is from Wolof foño. The grain is also known as acha in parts of Nigeria.
The European Commission with the EU Regulation L 323/1 of December 19th 2018 approved the commercialization in Europe of Fonio as Novel Food, upon the scientific dossier managed and submitted by the “the applicant” Italian company Obà Food.
White fonio (Digitaria exilis)
White fonio, Digitaria exilis, also called "hungry rice," is the most important of a diverse group of wild and domesticated Digitaria species that are harvested in the savannas of West Africa. Fonio has the smallest seeds of all species of millet. It has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development, and support sustainable use of the land.
Fonio has continued to be important locally because it is both nutritious, and is one of the world's fastest-growing cereals, reaching maturity in as little as six to eight weeks. It is a crop that can be relied on in semi-arid areas with poor soils, where rains are brief and unreliable. The grains are used in porridge and couscous, for bread, and for beer.
The small grains make it difficult and time-consuming to remove the husk. Traditional methods include pounding it in a mortar with sand (then separating the grains and sand) or "popping" it over a flame and then pounding it which yields a toasted-color grain; this technique is used among the Akposso. The invention of a simple fonio husking machine offers an easier mechanical way to dehusk.
Black fonio (Digitaria iburua)
- Teff, another African grass crop seed
- Digitaria compacta, raishan, used as a grain crop in northeast India
- Digitaria sanguinalis, considered a weed around the world, but traditionally used as a grain crop in Europe
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- Sergey Avramenko (3 May 2018). "Guinea Is the Largest Producing Country of Fonio". IndexBox. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
- Christian Seignobos and Henry Tourneux, Le Nord-Cameroun à travers ses mots: Dictionnaire de termes anciens et modernes: Province de l'extrême-nord (KARTHALA Editions, 2002; ISBN 2845862458), p. 107.
- "Fonio: EU Novel Food Approval". Official Journal of the European Union.
- "Italian firm Obà brings Fonio to Europe". Food Navigator.
- National Research Council (14 February 1996). "Fonio (Acha)". Grains. Lost Crops of Africa. 1. Washington: National Academies Press. ISBN 978-0-309-04990-0. Retrieved 18 July 2008.
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- Kuta, Danladi Dada; Kwon-Ndung, Emmanuel; Dachi, Stephen; Ukwungwu, Mark; Imolehin, Emmanuel Dada (December 2003). "Potential role of biotechnology tools for genetic improvement of "lost crops of Africa": the case of fonio (Digitaria exilis and Digitaria iburua)". African Journal of Biotechnology. 2 (12): 580–585. ISSN 1684-5315.
- Portères, R. (1955). "Les céréales mineures du genre Digitaria en Afrique et Europe". Journal d'Agriculture Tropicale et Botanique Appliquée (in French) (2): 349–386, 477–510, 620–675.
- Portères, R. (1976). "African cereals: eleusine, fonio, black fonio, teff, Brachiaria, Paspalum, Pennisetum and African rice". In Harlan, J.R.; De Wet, J.M.J.; Stemler, A.B.L. (eds.). Origins of African plant domestication. The Hague: Mouton. pp. 409–452.