Crop Profile

Fonio

and

the Reawakened 25

Edited by Philip Teverow
Yolélé Foods

DIGITARIA EXILIS (WHITE FONIO) AND DIGITARIA IBORUA (BLACK FONIO) are members of the same family of millets with a great potential to improve nutrition, foster rural development and support sustainable land use. These grains are the smallest among all millet species. Fonio has been cultivated in West Africa for more than 5000 years. It remains an important staple in the region because of its high nutritional value, short growing cycle, and reliable harvest even in the face of drought. Fonio grains can be boiled, baked or brewed into beer. Its adaptability to erratic climatic conditions, combined with the international market’s craving for more healthy grain substitutes has brought fonio to the limelight. Thanks to the work done by chefs and entrepreneurs in the creation of value added products and recipes for the urban market, fonio is gaining increased popularity.

Botany

The name Fonio is used for two grass crops in the genus Digitaria, part of the millet family. These two species were domesticated from wild Digitaria grasses growing in the savannas of West Africa. White fonio is an herbaceous annual that grows to 30- 80 cm tall in an erect fashion. The caryopsis (a type of dried fruit, i.e. a grain) is very small and matures quickly, coming in a variety of colors from white to yellow to purple. Black fonio is similar to white fonio, standing taller yet producing a smaller grain. Fonio’s extensive root system can reach over 1 meter down into the soil, allowing it to reach deep-buried nutrients and water reserves.

Culinary Use

Fonio is the staple crop for millions of people in West Africa, in countries such as Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Togo and Guinea. The consumption of Fonio has an ancient history in the region, dating back 7,000 years. Fonio, as a small grain, cooks quickly in about 7 minutes of boiling in water. Fonio is boiled or steamed to make a fluffy couscous of sorts or a thick porridge. The grain is ground to use as a flour for baking, especially for flatbreads, and fermented into a beer.

Nutrition and medical use

Fonio beats most other grains with its packed nutritional profile. Fonio has a higher carbohydrate content than maize, sorghum and other millets and contains more protein than rice. Deficient in rice, maize, wheat and other grains, the amino acids methionine and cysteine present in fonio are necessary in human diets and bring fonio close to a complete protein. Fonio has high amounts, more per-serving than any other grain, of nutrients such as iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium and manganese.

Agriculture

White fonio (Digitaria exilis) is the most commonly cultivated fonio, grown in dry savannah areas of the Sahel region. Black fonio (Digitaria iburia) is less common but more nutritious and grown in Nigeria, Niger, Benin and Togo. Around 700,000 tons of fonio is cultivated in West Africa every year. Fonio is sown when the first rainfalls in a region begin. The ground is prepared by ploughing with animals or by hand with tools such as a daba, then fonio seeds are broadcast seeded, sometimes with sand mixed with the tiny grains to create an even planting pattern. Fonio grows quickly; some varieties can be harvested 5 weeks after sowing. This allows the grain to support the nutritional needs of families in the ‘hungry season,’ before other staple cereal crops have matured. Fonio harvest and processing are intensive and time consuming tasks, still done mostly by hand. After the plants are cut with a sickle and collected into a sheaf, the sheaves dry in the sun. The sheaves are then threshed by hand and the husks of the grains are removed (decortication). Further abrasion is applied to remove the bran and germ, at which point the fonio is called “whitened” and ready for consumption. Fonio is prized for its ability to grow in marginal and depleted soil conditions, adapted to the desertified and sandy soils of the Sahel region. Fonio is incredibly resilient, able to withstand dry and tropical conditions, a large range of temperatures and altitudes, and poor sandy, rocky or acidic soils.

History

Fonio has been cultivated in West Africa for over 7,000 years, likely placing it as the oldest crop in the region. White fonio (Digitaria exilis) was domesticated from the wild grass Digitaria longiflora. Fonio is a prized and often sacred crop, used in feasts and special events such as weddings. The Dogon of Mali call fonio the “seed of the universe,” believing the world was created from a grain of fonio. French colonizers fought the popularity of fonio, labeling it peasants food and enforcing the cultivation of monocultures for export and the import of foreign cereals. Despite this sad history of food system destruction, fonio has remained a staple or main crop for 3-4 million people. Fonio is now gaining worldwide attention as an important food source in face of increasing climatic change and nutritional needs.

Research

Fonio lacks extensive study compared to the majority of cereal crops; even with its great potential as a crop for the needs of the future, producers worldwide have yet to gain interest in fonio cultivation. Fonio holds potential for argoecological development for use in intercropping systems. More agronomic and technology development is needed, as fonio production is still time-consuming and labor-intensive, due to the lack of proper harvesting, threshing and processing machines for small to medium scale producers.

Cuisine

Sourcing

Community resources

Resources

Welcome to the “FOOD CHOICES FOR A HEALTHY PLANET” game!

The FOOD CHOICES FOR A HEALTHY PLANET game allows users to experience the dramatic connections between food and climate in a unique and engaging way. The venue and the game set-up provides attendees with a fun experience, with a potential to add a new layer of storytelling about this topic.

Starting the game: the pilot version of the game features four country/regions: Each reflects a different way people (and the national dietary guidelines) look at diets: Nordic Countries (sustainability), Brazil (local and whole foods instead of ultra-processed foods); Canada (plant-forward), and Indonesia (developing countries).

Personalizing the game: players begin by choosing a country and then a character who they help in making food choices over the course of one day. Later versions may allow for creating custom avatars.

Making tough food choices: This interactive game for all ages shows how the food choices we make impact our health and the environment, and even contribute to climate change.

What we eat matters: at the end of each game, players learn that every decision they make impacts not only their health, but a national healthcare system, the environment, climate and even culture.

Fonio

Application

We’d love to know more about you and why you think you will be a great fit for this position! Shoot us an email introducing you and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!

Water Quality

Providing best water quality conditions to ensure optimal living condition for growth, breeding and other physiological needs

Water quality is sourced from natural seawater with dependency on the tidal system. Water is treated to adjust pH and alkalinity before stocking.

Smallholder Farmer

Producers that own and manages the farm operating under small-scale farming model with limited input, investment which leads to low to medium production yield

All 1,149 of our farmers in both regencies are smallholder farmers who operate with low stocking density, traditional ponds, and no use of any other intensification technology.

Worker Safety

Safe working conditions — cleanliness, lighting, equipment, paid overtime, hazard safety, etc. — happen when businesses conduct workplace safety audits and invest in the wellbeing of their employees

Company ensure implementation of safe working conditions by applying representative of workers to health and safety and conduct regular health and safety training. The practices are proven by ASIC standards’ implementation

Community Livelihood

Implementation of farming operations, management and trading that impact positively to community wellbeing and sustainable better way of living

The company works with local stakeholders and local governments to create support for farmers and the farming community in increasing resilience. Our farming community is empowered by local stakeholders continuously to maintain a long generation of farmers.

Frozen at Peak Freshness

Freezing seafood rapidly when it is at peak freshness to ensure a higher quality and longer lasting product

Our harvests are immediately frozen with ice flakes in layers in cool boxes. Boxes are equipped with paper records and coding for traceability. We ensure that our harvests are processed with the utmost care at <-18 degrees Celsius.

Deforestation Free

Sourcing plant based ingredients, like soy, from producers that do not destroy forests to increase their growing area and produce fish feed ingredients

With adjacent locations to mangroves and coastal areas, our farmers and company are committed to no deforestation at any scale. Mangrove rehabilitation and replantation are conducted every year in collaboration with local authorities. Our farms are not established in protected habitats and have not resulted from deforestation activity since the beginning of our establishment.

Natural Feed

Implement only natural feeds grown in water for aquatic animal’s feed without use of commercial feed

Our black tiger shrimps are not fed using commercial feed. The system is zero input and depends fully on natural feed grown in the pond. Our farmers use organic fertilizer and probiotics to enhance the water quality.

Increased Biodiversity

Enhance biodiversity through integration of nature conservation and food production without negative impact to surrounding ecosysytem

As our practices are natural, organic, and zero input, farms coexist with surrounding biodiversity which increases the volume of polyculture and mangrove coverage area. Farmers’ groups, along with the company, conduct regular benthic assessments, river cleaning, and mangrove planting.

THE TERM “MOONSHOT” IS OFTEN USED TO DESCRIBE an initiative that goes beyond the confines of the present by transforming our greatest aspirations into reality, but the story of a moonshot isn’t that of a single rocket. In fact, the Apollo program that put Neil Armstrong on the moon was actually preceded by the Gemini program, which in a two-year span rapidly put ten rockets into space. This “accelerated” process — with a new mission nearly every 2-3 months — allowed NASA to rapidly iterate, validate their findings and learn from their mistakes. Telemetry. Propulsion. Re-entry. Each mission helped NASA build and test a new piece of the puzzle.

The program also had its fair share of creative challenges, especially at the outset, as the urgency of the task at hand required that the roadmap for getting to the moon be written in parallel with the rapid pace of Gemini missions. Through it all, the NASA teams never lost sight of their ultimate goal, and the teams finally aligned on their shared responsibilities. Within three years of Gemini’s conclusion, a man did walk on the moon.

FACT is a food systems solutions activator that assesses the current food landscape, engages with key influencers, identifies trends, surveys innovative work and creates greater visibility for ideas and practices with the potential to shift key food and agricultural paradigms.

Each activator focuses on a single moonshot; instead of producing white papers, policy briefs or peer-reviewed articles, these teams design and implement blueprints for action. At the end of each activator, their work is released to the public and open-sourced.

As with any rapid iteration process, many of our activators re-assess their initial plans and pivot to address new challenges along the way. Still, one thing has remained constant: their conviction that by working together and pooling their knowledge and resources, they can create a multiplier effect to more rapidly activate change.

Picture of Douglas Gayeton

Douglas Gayeton

Co-Founder
THE LEXICON

Picture of Michiel Bakker

Michiel Bakker

Vice President
Global Workplace Programs
GOOGLE

Eligibility, Submission Terms and Conditions

Sponsor

A Greener Blue Global Storytelling Initiative is sponsored by The Lexicon, a US based 501(c)(3) public charity.

Opportunity

Storytellers will join A Greener Blue Storytelling Collective to create stories for the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture with the FAO and its partner organizations. Members of the Collective will take part in a private online “Total Storytelling Lab” led by The Lexicon’s Douglas Gayeton. Upon completion of this online certificate program, members of the Collective will join seafood experts from around the globe in creating A Greener Blue Storytelling initiative.

Terms

Who can enter and how selections are made.

A Greener Blue is a global call to action that is open to individuals and teams from all over the world. Below is a non-exhaustive list of subjects the initiative targets.

  • Creatives and storytellers with a passion for food and the willingness to support small-scale fisherpeople and experts worldwide. This category includes, but is not exhausted in photographers, videomakers, illustrators, podcasters, and writers.
  • Food Activists working to change open sea fishing and aquaculture; 
  • Members of fishing and indigenous communities that support their communities, share their stories and protect their way of life;
  • Local and International NGOs work every day with actors across the whole value chain to create more sustainable seafood models.

To apply, prospective participants will need to fill out the form on the website, by filling out each part of it. Applications left incomplete or containing information that is not complete enough will receive a low score and have less chance of being admitted to the storytelling lab.

Nonprofit organizations, communities of fishers and fish farmers and companies that are seeking a closer partnership or special support can also apply by contacting hello@thelexicon.org and interacting with the members of our team.

Special attention will be given to the section of the form regarding the stories that the applicants want to tell and the reasons for participating. All proposals for stories regarding small-scale or artisanal fishers or aquaculturists, communities of artisanal fishers or aquaculturists, and workers in different steps of the seafood value chain will be considered.

Stories should show the important role that these figures play in building a more sustainable seafood system. To help with this narrative, the initiative has identified 10 principles that define a more sustainable seafood system. These can be viewed on the initiative’s website and they state:
Seafood is sustainable when:

  • it helps address climate change
  • it supports global ecosystems
  • it optimizes impact on resources and nutrient cycles.
  • it promotes a safe growing environment for safe food sources.
  • it advances animal welfare.
  • it enhances flavor and nutrition.
  • it builds resilience and self-sufficiency in local communities.
  • it prioritizes inclusion, equality, and fair treatment of workers.
  • it preserves legality and the quality and the story of the product throughout the value chain.
  • it creates opportunities along the whole value chain.

Proposed stories should show one or more of these principles in practice.

Applications are open from the 28th of June to the 15th of August 2022. There will be 50 selected applicants who will be granted access to The Lexicon’s Total Storytelling Lab. These 50 applicants will be asked to accept and sign a learning agreement and acceptance of participation document with which they agree to respect The Lexicon’s code of conduct.

The first part of the lab will take place online between August the 22nd and August the 26th and focus on training participants on the foundation of storytelling, supporting them to create a production plan, and aligning all of them around a shared vision.

Based on their motivation, quality of the story, geography, and participation in the online Lab, a selected group of participants will be gifted a GoPro camera offered to the program by GoPro For A Change. Participants who are selected to receive the GoPro camera will need to sign an acceptance and usage agreement.

The second part of the Storytelling Lab will consist of a production period in which each participant will be supported in the production of their own story. This period goes from August 26th to October 13th. Each participant will have the opportunity to access special mentorship from an international network of storytellers and seafood experts who will help them build their story. The Lexicon also provides editors, animators, and graphic designers to support participants with more technical skills.

The final deadline to submit the stories is the 14th of October. Participants will be able to both submit complete edited stories, or footage accompanied by a storyboard to be assembled by The Lexicon’s team.

All applicants who will exhibit conduct and behavior that is contrary to The Lexicon’s code of conduct will be automatically disqualified. This includes applicants proposing stories that openly discriminate against a social or ethnic group, advocate for a political group, incite violence against any group, or incite to commit crimes of any kind.

All submissions must be the entrant’s original work. Submissions must not infringe upon the trademark, copyright, moral rights, intellectual rights, or rights of privacy of any entity or person.

Participants will retain the copyrights to their work while also granting access to The Lexicon and the other partners of the initiative to share their contributions as part of A Greener Blue Global Storytelling Initiative.

If a potential selected applicant cannot be reached by the team of the Initiative within three (3) working days, using the contact information provided at the time of entry, or if the communication is returned as undeliverable, that potential participant shall forfeit.

Offering

Selected applicants will be granted access to an advanced Storytelling Lab taught and facilitated by Douglas Gayeton, award-winning storyteller and information architect, co-founder of The Lexicon. In this course, participants will learn new techniques that will improve their storytelling skills and be able to better communicate their work with a global audience. This skill includes (but is not limited to) how to build a production plan for a documentary, how to find and interact with subjects, and how to shoot a short documentary.

Twenty of the participants will receive a GoPro Hero 11 Digital Video and Audio Cameras by September 15, 2022. Additional participants may receive GoPro Digital Video and Audio Cameras to be announced at a later date. The recipients will be selected by advisors to the program and will be based on selection criteria (see below) on proposals by Storytelling Lab participants. The selections will keep in accordance with Lab criteria concerning geography, active participation in the Storytelling Lab and commitment to the creation of a story for the Initiative, a GoPro Camera to use to complete the storytelling lab and document their story. These recipients will be asked to sign an acceptance letter with terms of use and condition to receive the camera. 

The Lexicon provides video editors, graphic designers, and animators to support the participants to complete their stories.

The submitted stories will be showcased during international and local events, starting from the closing event of the International Year of Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022 in Rome, in January 2023. The authors of the stories will be credited and may be invited to join.

All selection criteria

Storytelling lab participation:

Applicants that will be granted access to the storytelling Lab will be evaluated based on the entries they provided in the online form, and in particular:

  • The completeness of their form
  • The relevance of their story (coherence with the main goal of the initiative and 10 principles)
  • Written motivation explained
  • Geography (the initiative aims at showcasing stories from all over the world so the mix of locations will be a factor that the selection committee will take into account)
 

Applications will be evaluated by a team of 4 judges from The Lexicon, GSSI and the team of IYAFA (Selection committee).

When selecting applications, the call promoters may request additional documentation or interviews both for the purpose of verifying compliance with eligibility requirements and to facilitate proposal evaluation.

Camera recipients:

Participants to the Storytelling Lab who will be given a GoPro camera will be selected based on:

  • Quality of the story (coherence with the initiative and the 10 principles)
  • Motivation demonstrated during the interaction in the online class
  • Participation in the online class (participants that will attend less than 4 classes will be automatically excluded)
 

The evaluation will be carried out by a team of 4 judges from The Lexicon, GSSI and the team of IYAFA (Selection committee).

Incidental expenses and all other costs and expenses which are not specifically listed in these Official Rules but which may be associated with the acceptance, receipt and use of the Storytelling Lab and the camera are solely the responsibility of the respective participants and are not covered by The Lexicon or any of the A Greener Blue partners.

All participants who receive a Camera are required to sign an agreement allowing GoPro for a Cause, The Lexicon and GSSI to utilize the films for A Greener Blue and their promotional purposes. All participants will be required to an agreement to upload their footage into the shared drive of The Lexicon and make the stories, films and images available for The Lexicon and the promoting partners of A Greener Blue.

Additional Limitations

Selection and distribution of the camera is non-transferable. No substitution or cash equivalent of the cameras is granted. The Lexicon and its respective partners and representatives are not responsible for any typographical or other errors in the offer or administration of the Initiative, including, but not limited to, errors in any printing or posting or the Official Rules, the selection and announcement of any selected participant, or the distribution of any equipment. Any attempt to damage the content or operation of this Initiative is unlawful and subject to possible legal action by The Lexicon. The Lexicon reserves the right to terminate, suspend or amend the Initiative, without notice, and for any reason, including, without limitation, if The Lexicon determines that the Lab cannot be conducted as planned or should a virus, bug, tampering or unauthorized intervention, technical failure or other cause beyond The Lexicon’s control corrupt the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper play of the Contest. In the event any tampering or unauthorized intervention may have occurred, The Lexicon reserves the right to void suspect entries at issue.

Contact us

Please share your comments and questions and get a response from a real person!