Fonio/acha is a delicious and nutritious African supergrain. In Nigeria, the Jos Plateau, where our company operates from, is considered to be the home of fonio.
You may have heard different things about this tiny grain. Forming a key part of many West African cultures and traditions, it’s so old that some have called it the oldest grain in Africa. At the same time, it’s so tasty that others consider it to be the world’s tastiest grain. Whether these claims are true or not, however, we can all agree on a few things:
Fonio/acha packs quite a nutritional punch
As a whole grain, fonio is rich in fibre and highly nutritious and healthy – for both adults and children. It has a low glycaemic index, which allows the body to digest it without much impact on blood sugar. People watching their sugar levels can easily use it in place of rice, pasta, and other wheat-based meals. This also makes it ideal for diabetics. It’s also gluten free, which means people with all forms of gluten intolerance can enjoy this delicious grain without any fears.
Fonio is also low in calories, a great source of protein, with particularly high levels of two important essential amino acids that aren’t found in other grains – methionine and cysteine (they help with the growth and health of hair, nails, and skin cells).
Fonio/acha is versatile
Fonio, in its natural form, can be prepared into a variety of meals that include porridges, fufu/swallow/tuwo, breakfast cereals, casseroles, and jollofs. In its milled form, it can be used to make smoother fufu/swallow/tuwo, paps, and baked goods. Visit our social media pages for recipes and suggestions.
Fonio/acha defines Africa in many ways
Fonio is of significant cultural and historical importance. It has been cultivated for over 5,000 years around Africa. A strong part of many cultures and traditions across the continent, it is served during special occasions like weddings and other important ceremonies. In myth and folklore, for instance, the Dogon people of Mali believe the world was made from a single grain of fonio, while the Ngas people of Northern Nigeria have a saying that if a sick person is given a mixture fonio and water and fails to recover by the next day, that person is beyond saving.
Fonio/acha is a tiny grain with big dreams
For years, fonio remained in obscurity as a local grain cultivated by hand. Little scientific research went into understanding the grain. In Nigeria, because of its sturdy nature that allows it to grow in arid regions (like the Sahel savanna of West Africa), it was mostly relegated to secondary status as a grain that was used to curb starvation during the “hungry season”; this gave rise to the misnomer “Hungry Rice”. We consider this name derogatory, with negative connotations, and prefer not to use it.
The good news is that a lot is changing in the perception of fonio. There is growing interest in it as a grain that has the potential to combat food security challenges in Africa. At the same time, it also has the potential of becoming a major cash crop and mass market product that can guarantee the livelihoods of its farmers, who remain the most crucial part of its value chain.