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Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I, Grains
a good substitute for semolina—the wheat product used to make spaghetti and other pastas.
In the Hausa region of Nigeria and Benin, people prepare a couscous (wusu-wusu) out of both types of fonio. In northern Togo, the Lambas brew a famous beer (tchapalo) from white fonio. In southern Togo, the Akposso and Akebou peoples prepare fonio with beans in a dish that is reserved for special occasions.
Fonio grain is digested efficiently by cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys, and other ruminant livestock. It is a valuable feed for monogastric animals, notably pigs and poultry, because of its high methionine content.7 The straw and chaff are also fed to animals. Both make excellent fodder and are often sold in markets for this purpose. Indeed, the crop is sometimes grown solely for hay.
The straw is commonly chopped and mixed with clay for building houses or walls. It is also burned to provide heat for cooking or ash for potash.
In gross nutritional composition, fonio differs little from wheat. In one white fonio sample, the husked grain contained 8 percent protein and I percent fat.8 In a sample of black fonio, a protein content of 11.8 percent was recorded.9
The difference lies in the amino acids it contains. In the white fonio analysis, for example, the protein contained 7.3 percent methionine plus cystine. The amino acid profile compared to that of whole-egg protein showed that except for the low score of 46 percent for lysine, the other scores were high: 72 for isoleucine; 90-100 for valine, tryptophan, threonine, and phenylalanine; 127 for leucine; 175 for total sulfur; and 189 percent for methionine.10
This last figure means that fonio protein contains almost twice as much methionine as egg protein contains. Thus, fonio has important potential not only as survival food, but as a complement for standard diets.
Fonio is usually grown on poor, sandy, or ironstone soils that are considered too infertile for pearl millet, sorghum, or other cereals. In
De Lumen et al., 1986.
Carbiener et al., 1960.
Using the FAO, A/E approach. Information from B. Standal. One analysis has reported a methionine level as high as 5.6 percent.