factors such as the division of labor, traditional beliefs, and people's expectations? (Fonio, after all, is seldom if ever grown under optimum conditions.) Its promotion will succeed best in West Africa if its development is placed within such local constraints.


The processing and cooking of this crop is extremely arduous. Unless this can be relieved, fonio will probably never reach its potential.


Botanical Names

Digitaria exilis Stapf and Digitaria iburua Stapf16


Paspalum exile Kippist; Panicum exile (Kippist) A. Chev.; Syntherisma exilis (Kippist) Newbold; Syntherisma iburua (Stapf) Newbold (for Digitaria iburua)

Common Names

English: hungry rice, hungry millet, hungry koos, fonio, fundi millet

French: fonio, petit mil (a name also used for other crops)

Fulani: serémé, foinye, fonyo, fundenyo

Bambara: fini

Nigeria: acha (Digitaria exilis, Hausa); iburu (Digitaria iburua, Hausa); aburo

Senegal: eboniaye, efoleb, findi, fundi

The Gambia: findo (Mandinka)

Togo: (Digitaria iburua); afio-warun (Lamba); ipoga (Somba, Sampkarba); fonio ga (black fonio); ova (Akposso)

Mali: fani, feni, foundé

Burkina Faso: foni

Guinea: pende, kpendo, founié, pounié

Benin: podgi

Ivory Coast: pom, pohin


As noted, there are actually two species of fonio. Both are erect, free-tillering annuals. White fonio (Digitaria exilis) is usually 30-75 cm tall. Its finger-shaped panicle has 2-5 slender racemes up to 15 cm


Black fonio has been known to science only since 1911, when a botanist recognized that what was growing in fields with pearl millet in the Zaria region of northern Nigeria was a species new to science.

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