Strengthening Fonio Contributions

Lead Organization:

Institute of Rural Economy (IER)

Partner Organizations:

Agriculture sectors in the Ségou basin, Sikasso-Kadiolo, Koutiala, and Kéniéba-Kita basins; farmers’ organizations Union des Agriculteurs de la Commune de Tominian (UACT) (Tominian basin), Association des Organisations Professionnelles Paysannes (AOPP) (Koro-Bankass basin), and Association Malienne d’Eveil au Développment Durable (AMEDD) (Yanfolila-Bougouni basin); Institut de Recherche en Sciences Appliquées et Technologies (IRSAT) with the Child Nutrition Program; Union des Sociétés Coopératives pour la Commercialisation des Produits Agricoles de la Boucle de Mouhoun (USCCPA/BM) (Burkina Faso); and FUMA Gaskiya of Maradi Farmers Unions (Niger)

In Mali, Farmers’ Knowledge project with NGO AMEDD and FaReNe project with ADAF-Gallè

Community of Practice:

West Africa


Burkina Faso Niger Mali




Fonio has been grown primarily for subsistence and is an emerging income source (Jideani & Jideani, 2011). Its grain is considered good nutrition because of its high protein content associated with some micronutrients (Sadiq et al., 2015). Fonio’s low glycemic index makes it an alternative grain for people with gluten intolerance (Small, 2015; Fogny et al., 2017). In Mali, the most popular dishes of fonio are foyo (fonio couscous), djouka (mixture of fonio, vegetables, and groundnut), fonio dèguè mixture of fonio and curdle milk, and fini zamé (fried fonio) (Koréiss, 2015; Mbosso et al., 2020).

Despite this crop’s importance its cultivation remains below its potential across sub-Saharan Africa due mostly to lack of appropriate technologies for improving production (Adoukonou-Sagbadja et al., 2006). As indicated by Bationo et al. (2009), more than 70 percent of African soil is deficiently fertile. Studies revealed variability in terms of decreasing rainfall and increasing temperature (Zhongming et al., 2021). Fonio yield will therefore be more vulnerable to biotic stress related to climate variability. In Mali, most research activities related to fonio production improvements have been focused on farmers’ value chains (Mbosso et al., 2020); validation of some Malian fonio varieties for food composition database and bioavailable iron and zinc content supporting effect of processing (Koréiss, 2015); and major agronomic constraints affecting fonio production (Konate et al., 2021).Three previous project phases funded by McKnight saw fonio ecotypes collected through mean growing areas in Mali. On-station and -farm experiments were conducted with different technologies such as fonio rotation with cereals, sowing modes (line or broadcast), organic fertilizers (compost and human urine) application, appropriate number, and weeding period. Elsewhere, knowledge of processing cooperatives was strengthened in terms of increasing incomes with new products made from fonio.

Grant Aims:

The overall goal is to increase farmer exposure to different technologies since most previous activities were related to on-station trials in addition to some on-farm experiments. Farmers will be more involved through field demonstrations to test different technologies’ adaptability. 

Specifically, the project aims to:

  • Consider a new aspect,a disease, since Phyllachora sphearosperma has seen drastically reduced production within farmers’ areas. 
  • Enforce fonio network with capacity building for youth researcher academy training in PhD and master’s to strengthen breeding programs.
  • Strengthen farmers’ skills on fonio technique, with women and youth more involved in processing and commercialization to develop their entrepreneurship. 
  • Develop financial and market strategies for processors, facilitating access to financial support and markets.

Outputs and Outcomes:


  • Factors such as techniques used by farmers for fonio production and processing and constraints preventing good production identified within different main basins of fonio production
  • Nutrient level assessment of fonio germplasm collection allowing selection of those varieties containing high micronutrient and protein content 
  • Testing different technologies such as sowing methods (line, broadcast, and hull), appropriate weeding number and period, organic fertilizers (human urine and compost), and intercropping fonio and cereals made available for farmers
  • Scaling out different technologies through the FRN facilitating visibility of different technologies in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.
  • Knowledge of fonio actors along fonio value chain improved; different results shared with fonio actors through meetings, workshops, article publications, and training contributing to fonio production improvement


  • Importance of fonio in rural communities, farmers’ fonio processing methods, and nutrient status identified when assessing terms of fonio improvement
  • Knowledge of fonio varieties’ nutrient status allowing nutritionists to consider varieties with potential for processing into meals
  • Consumption in rural communities alleviating malnutrition, reducing child mortality rate related to malnutrition, and improving old people’s health
  • Implementing new technologies in farmer practices reducing production costs; most organic fertilizers (compost and urine) could be made up by farmers and available any period of year
  • Growing fonio varieties with good agronomic traits (high yield, early and medium maturity) associated with good practices increasing farmers’ fonio and cereals production and making available animal food by using fodders
  • Scaling out giving more visibility of different technologies to farmers, allowing them to appreciate potential of each technology
  • Exchange through on-station and on-field days giving more feedback from farmers that  could be used to improve different technologies for more impact on fonio and cereals grain and fodder yield 
  • Scaling out scientist, farmer, and processor knowledge making more impact since different actors will implement this new knowledge to fill different gaps
  • Training youth and women in strategies such as entrepreneurship and financial support facilitating establishment of their own businesses 
  • Middle and end of rainy season food scarcity solved by using early maturing varieties
  • Achievement of some Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations (UN), such as addressing poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition, zero hunger, sustainable food and climate action, and partnerships to achieve different goals