Fonio is consumed mainly in the West African countries, where it is also cultivated. The global fonio market was 673,000 tonnes in 2016. The name fonio (borrowed by English from French) is from Woloffoño. The grain is also known as acha in parts of Nigeria.
The European Commission, with the EU Regulation L 323/1 of December 19, 2018, approved the commercialization in Europe of Fonio as Novel Food, upon the scientific dossier managed and submitted by the “the applicant” Italian company Obà Food.
White fonio, Digitaria exilis, also called "hungry rice," is the most important of a diverse group of wild and domesticated Digitaria species that are harvested in the savannas of West Africa. Fonio has the smallest seeds of all species of millet. It has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development, and support sustainable use of the land.
Fonio has continued to be important locally because it is both nutritious and is one of the world's fastest-growing cereals, reaching maturity in as little as six to eight weeks. It is a crop that can be relied on in semi-arid areas with poor soils, where rains are brief and unreliable. The grains are used in porridge and couscous, for bread, and for beer. [no citations]
The small grains make it difficult and time-consuming to remove the husk. Traditional methods include pounding it in a mortar with sand (and then separating the grains and sand) or "popping" it over a flame and then pounding it, which yields a toasted-color grain (a technique used among the Akposso). The invention of a simple fonio husking machine offers an easier mechanical way to dehusk.
Portères, R. (1955). "Les céréales mineures du genre Digitaria en Afrique et Europe". Journal d'Agriculture Tropicale et Botanique Appliquée (in French) (2): 349–386, 477–510, 620–675.
Portères, R. (1976). "African cereals: eleusine, fonio, black fonio, teff, Brachiaria, Paspalum, Pennisetum and African rice". In Harlan, J.R.; De Wet, J.M.J.; Stemler, A.B.L. (eds.). Origins of African plant domestication. The Hague: Mouton. pp. 409–452.