In Africa, the adage, “food is culture” is a reality that can be seen throughout the continent. West Africa is home to more than 130 dialects and over 100 ethnic groups. Each tribe cultivates its unique heritage and cultural recipes. Every recipe carries the DNA and history of the tribe that tends it. Depending on its ethnic and geographic source, each dish may have modified recipes and names.
With modernization and globalization, it is no secret that Africa has lost some of its previously most popular and staple food crops. Fonio is a child of this fate – described as one of the oldest African cereals. Acha, iburura, fundi millet, or fogno are all names that are attributed to the superfood grain, fonio. It started to disappear in the early 1970s and gradually faded out of the regional food system.
Commonly known as the ‘Grain of Life’ or the ‘Hungry Rice,’ Fonio: /ˈfəʊnjəʊ/, is the smallest and one of the oldest grown grains. Recently realized by the rest of the world, the grain is an indigenous West African crop with two cultivated species.
White fonio (Digitaria exilis) has roots that can be traced to Senegal and Chad, while black fonio (Digitaria iborua) is mainly grown in Nigeria and the northern regions of Togo and Benin. In Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, and Togo, fonio was traditionally reserved for chiefs and royalty – enjoyed during the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan or at celebrations like weddings and baptisms.
In Ghana, the fonio grain or ekpui / nvoni, as called by native growers, is cultivated in the Saboba-Chereponi and Zabzugu-Tatali districts of the northern region. It is traditionally prepared as a breakfast cereal, rice, couscous, used in salads or stews, or eaten as a side dish. The grain is also milled into flour and used for baking or brewed into the Ghanaian traditional gluten-free beer.
Nutritionally speaking, fonio is a treasure. Naturally gluten-free, fonio is rich in zinc, calcium, magnesium, and has a very low glycaemic index, controls diabetes, contains heart-healthy vitamins, minerals, methionine, and helps strengthen hair and nails. Fonio also helps prevent anemia, detoxes the liver, provides energy, and builds strong bones and teeth. In Togo, fonio is popular for preventing blood clotting after childbirth and stimulating milk production in breastfeeding mothers.
Fonio’s cultural significance and nutritional benefits have been lost over time as this superfood has been replaced by commercial staples like rice and spaghetti.
Since the COVID-19 epidemic, more people in West Africa are questioning the foods they consume and are paying attention to the environmental consequences of their food choices.
In less than a year, vegan restaurants and health food groceries have sprung up across Ghana. Certified nutritionists, medical practitioners, and women-owned eateries, such as BackToEden Healthy Foods, Nomadic Restaurant, and Fulani Test Kitchen are campaigning to encourage the fonio’s inclusion in everyday, local culinary tradition.
Women growers and processors are now actively producing fonio across West Africa. As the market demand for fonio increases, Organic Trade & Investments (OTI) has pioneered fonio’s commercialization in Ghana and the international market. In June 2021, the organization mobilized over 1,000 women in Burkina Faso to process the grain on a larger scale. In addition to maintaining the continent’s heritage and the grain’s essence, they are using fonio as a force for women’s empowerment and employment in remote areas.
Women spearheaded fonio’s reawakening in Ghana and West Africa. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has published that “in sub-Saharan Africa, women contribute 60% to 80% of the labor in both food production for household consumption and sale.” What is called the “feminization of agriculture” is prevalent in Ghana and is reflected in the entire value chain system of fonio production in the northern parts of the country. While the production activity is supervised and distributed by men, the majority of fonio production is done by a female workforce (>95%). In the northern part of Ghana alone, 80 groups of women are engaged in fonio’s processing.
Historically, West Africa has been noted to be a matriarchal society. Women are often responsible for supplying their families with food and care. They carry the knowledge of the value and diverse use of plants for nutrition, health, and income. It is no surprise that it is women who have revived and spearheaded fonio’s use.
As the world faces a global health crisis, agriculture is fast becoming a predominantly female sector. Research by K.A Saito concludes that “In Africa women now constitute the majority of smallholder farmers, provide most of the labor and manage farms on a daily basis.” This trend has resulted in more women being self-reliant and financially independent. The improvement in livelihood through agriculture has contributed to the growing number of women-owned agribusiness companies and female-headed households.
The crop itself is not difficult to cultivate as it survives in drought conditions and poor soils without fertilizer application. It’s the processing techniques that remain a challenge.
Historically, women used traditional farming methods for fonio production. Fonio is one particular crop that cannot be machine processed from start to finish and does require labor by hand. However, the agriculture sector remains financially deprived and poorly mechanized in West Africa. Almost fifty percent of crops were once lost due to inadequate machinery. The old tools and techniques were not maintained by this new generation of women agriculturalists. Instead, they use modern technology. Each step of the process, from sowing to harvesting, marketing to distribution, has been streamlined. Without altering the grain’s quality, the supply chain improved to meet 21st-century market demands. Traditional fonio farming and processing, which was characterized by high labor and low returns deterred a younger generation from continuing in the footsteps of their mothers and grandmothers. Now, with a well-structured market and supply chain, the right technology, and growing global demand, young women farmers and commodity traders are taking fonio production to the next level.
This ancient grain once called a “lost crop” or “orphan crop”, is quickly entering the global market. As fonio is reawakened, the narrative is changing. No longer “lost”, fonio can be found in food aisles and stores across the globe. The demand for fonio is ever-growing and is now a priority crop for West Africa thanks to young women farmers that have refused to let this ancient miracle grain die out.
Women play a primary role in the global agrifood system. They have greater opportunities to thrive when they can grow more biodiversity in their fields. In this way, they can bring biodiversity into their families' diets and create economic security.
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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.
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.
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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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Participants to the Storytelling Lab who will be given a GoPro camera will be selected based on:
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.