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Fonio / Radio Scripts / Farm Radio International

Package 82, Script 6
November 2007

Fonio

Notes to Broadcaster

Fonio is considered to be one of the oldest cereals in Western Africa, but has not received much attention because of the smallness of the grains it produces. Today fonio is experiencing renewed interest due to its delicious taste and excellent nutritional qualities. It is often prepared for large events such as family celebrations. Fonio production and processing in West Africa is mostly undertaken by women.

This radio script is based on a debate produced by Radio Fanakan in Fana, Mali. The topic is fonio and gender.


Characters:
Lamine Togola: radio presenter/producer
Mr. Modibo Goita: USC Coordinator
Mrs. Touré Djenebou Sidibé: Secretary General for the organization ‘Network of Women for Local Development'
Mrs. Selly Ouane: coordinator of the Kitchen Collective program

10 seconds of introductory music to open show.

Lamine Togola: Today's episode of Faso Ntuloma talks about fonio and gender. Fonio is a small grain which is eaten by many people, especially in the villages of Mali. Though fonio is cultivated in some parts of Mali, the majority of fonio we eat comes from Guinea. The taste and nutritional benefits that consumers appreciate so well have led researchers to focus on improving its good qualities. In order to give everyone a chance to better understand these benefits, we have invited three guests to the studio. Mr. Modibo Goita is coordinator of USC, an NGO which specializes in promoting African seed varieties. Mrs. Touré Djenebou Sidibé is Secretary General of the Network of Women for Local Development, and Mrs. Selly Ouane is coordinator of the Kitchen Collective program. Mr. Modibo Goita, could you start by telling us about your work to conserve the genetic resources of African crops, specifically of fonio?

Mr. Modibo Goita: USC works on the conservation of the genetic resources and the sustainable use of minor crops such as fonio, as well as crops that are more widely used. We are finding that farmers are growing less of the native crops like fonio. Today, in the villages, there are very few fonio fields that belong to the men who own large pieces of fertile land, even though these cereals are the staples of their diets. With the communities, USC has developed strategies for producing and conserving these crops. For example, we have created crop gene banks. For the Dogon community of Douentza in Mali, where we do most of our work, fonio is extremely important. Indeed, it is considered to be the seed of the world. That's why it deserves particular attention, especially for women farmers who grow fonio to ensure food security and fight poverty.

Lamine Togola: Thank you, Mr. Goita. Mrs. Sidibé, how did the Network of Women for Local Development become interested in fonio?

Mrs. Touré Djenebou Sidibé: The Network of Women for Local Development is an organization that forms women's associations at the local level. Its mandate is to fight poverty by promoting the value of women's work. Women's associations brought their know-how to share with one another in meetings. The most popular topics in these meetings were the processing of fonio into djouka and precooked fonio.

Lamine Togola: How is fonio processed?

Mrs. Touré Djenebou Sidibé: To prepare djouka, we start by winnowing the fonio grains, then washing them. To prepare one kilogram of fonio – a meal for five people – place the fonio in a bowl and add one half litre of water. Steam the fonio for 10 minutes. Then, add about 300 to 400 millilitres of water, mixing it in slowly. Steam a second time for five minutes. Then, add ground peanut and fish powder. Finally, add a little iodized salt, mix it in and steam the whole mixture a third time.

Lamine Togola: What quantities of fonio and other ingredients are needed to make a good dish of djouka?

Mrs. Touré Djenebou Sidibé: For each kilogram of fonio, use half a kilogram of peanuts. The quantity of fish and of iodized salt depends on the preferences of the cook. Some people also add chilli sauce, tomatoes, onions, some oil, garlic, and peppers.

Lamine Togola: And how do you prepare precooked fonio?

Mrs. Touré Djenebou Sidibé: Precooked fonio is prepared by steaming the fonio grains twice, so that the grains can properly retain water and be soft enough for consumption. We then add a little iodized salt and a bit of okra.

Lamine Togola: What do you do with the djouka and precooked fonio once they are ready?

Mrs. Touré Djenebou Sidibé: After processing, we put the products in one-kilogram sacks. We use sacks on which the ingredients and the baking method are already written. We sell these bags in our own store, in other stores, or to other associations and women's organizations.

Lamine Togola: How much do you earn from the sales?

Mrs. Touré Djenebou Sidibé: The production costs are 1000 FCFA per kilogram (Editor's note: 1000 FCFA or West African francs is a little more than $2 U.S.) for the djouka and 600 FCFA/kg for the precooked fonio. We sell the sacs of djouka for 1250 FCFA and the precooked fonio for 1000 FCFA.

Lamine Togola: Thank you, Mrs. Sidibé. I turn now to Mrs. Selly Ouane, who will tell us about the Kitchen Collective and its experience preparing fonio.

Mrs. Selly Ouane: I'll begin by saying that the Kitchen Collective is an initiative which allows a group of people to pool together their time, money and knowledge of cooking in order to prepare economic, appetizing and healthy dishes. The women choose the recipes, make the list of ingredients, and purchase them together as a group. They also prepare the meals and evaluate them. So the Kitchen Collective becomes an important place of popular education. It is based on the values of solidarity, equity, social justice and autonomy.

Our target group are children aged 6 months to 5 years. The recipes are chosen because they provide good nutrition for children of this age. We attended a training session with the Ministry of Nutrition, and we were very impressed with all the recipes offered for fonio porridge. This porridge is made with fonio flour, peanut powder, milk, orange juice, and a little iodized salt. It is a complete meal for babies and toddlers.

Lamine Togola: How do you prepare fonio porridge?

Mrs. Selly Ouane: We start by boiling a quarter of a kilogram of peanuts. After 15 minutes, we add half a kilogram of fonio and let it boil for another 10 minutes. Then we remove it from the heat and let it cool. Next we mix it and let it boil again. After two minutes of cooking over low heat, we add some orange juice and a little iodized salt. Finally, we steam the mixture for five minutes.

Lamine Togola: Thank you, Mrs. Ouane. I would like to ask Mr. Modibo Goita to tell us about the qualities and benefits of fonio.

Mr. Modibo Goita: From a farming point of view, fonio is a plant which belongs to the grass family. It grows in poor soil and has a considerable yield, about 600 to 1200 kilograms of grain per hectare. Fonio also helps to regenerate soil. There are three varieties of fonio, which farmers can use depending on their environment. There is a short term variety that matures after three months, the long-term variety that matures after four months, and a variety that adapts to all seasons. Fonio does not need chemical pesticides, so can be grown as an organic product.

Many people say that when you eat fonio, you are less likely to get diabetes and to become obese than when you use other popular cereals and their refined products. Like rice, fonio is rich in carbohydrates and contains proteins, and fats. Fonio is, however, richer in minerals such as zinc, manganese, and magnesium, as well as amino acids that are good for the heart and nerves.

Lamine Togola: Today's program is coming to its end. We have heard a lot of information from our guests. I would like to ask them to summarize the main lessons for farmers, especially women farmers, regarding the cultivation and preparation of fonio.

Mr. Modibo Goita: I think that it is a question of increasing the value of this crop. When consumers specifically ask for a crop at the market, this benefits the farmers who produce it. Fonio can be a big source of income. The market price of fonio is triple that of millet! Fonio also has potential as an export crop for our country. In Douentza, where USC has partnered with rural women, fonio has helped women earn income and contribute to the fight against poverty.

Musical break of 10 seconds

Lamine Togola: Dear listeners, thank you for your interest in today's program. To end, here are the questions of the day, for which you can earn prizes. The first three winners will each receive an audio cassette of local music of their choice. (Short pause) The first question is: How do you prepare djouka? The second is: How do you prepare fonio porridge? The third and last question is: What are the nutritional benefits of fonio? Please prepare your answers and send them to us at (give address, phone number or e-mail of station). See you next week.


Acknowledgements

  • Contributed by: Modibo Coulibaly, Mali Community Radio Network.
  • Reviewed by: Patrick Maundu, Bioversity International.