Fonio Intensification

Lead Organization:

l'Institut d'Economie Rurale

Partner Organizations:

University of Segou

Community of Practice:

West Africa






Fonio [Digitaria exilis] is a traditional grain crop domesticated in Africa. Farmers maintain the crop in production systems in Mali and elsewhere, but fonio is recognized as a neglected crop with respect to research. All parts of the fonio plant, including the grain, the straw, and the dense root system are useful. Demand for fonio in Mali exceeds supply. Its average yield is 350 kg/ha, but depending of the context it can reach 1200 kg/ha.

Fonio can offer several advantages, such as food and nutritional value, contribution to public health, restoration of soil organic matter and improvement of the income of the producers and the processors (mostly women). There is a large diversity within the community of women and men producers of fonio in terms of field area, family labor and income. Fonio cultivation is most important to widows and old women, who depend on the crop for their income from small amounts of fonio.

Grant Aims:

The overall goal of the project is to offer to smallholder farming communities’ diverse opportunities and technologies to intensify crop and livestock production for improved income and nutrition and human nutrition through the development and dissemination of fonio diversification, AEI, systems integration, processing and marketing options.

Outputs and Outcomes:

Outputs and Outcomes:

  • Fonio productivity is increased through improvement of sowing techniques, use of agro-ecological practices such as providing a basket of varieties, composting methods, and options for the use of fonio straw or better integration of fonio into the production system.
  • Better understanding of the genetic diversity of fonio with regard to the nutritional traits of the grain and straw.
  • A sustainable warrantage system initiated through the establishment of a link between microcredit institutions and cooperatives at project mid-term. Subsequently, fonio hullers are offered to the communities to facilitate fonio processing.
  • At least one PhD trained on fonio agronomy or breeding, at least five farmers’ organizations trained in compost preparation and improvement of seeding and weeding techniques. The following outcomes will be realized.
  • Reduction of seed rates due to adoption of new techniques of sowing (hill or by continuous rows), increased yield of fonio and subsequent crops like millet or maize; improved farmers’ income from fonio, increased use of local resources as fertilizer.
  • Improved quality of human’s and livestock nutrition/feed.
  • Reduced vulnerabity of people with fewer resources, particularly widows, older people and the women without children.
  • Contextualized and inclusive scaling of the innovations related to AEI of fonio production.


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