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Grains: Fonio

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Description: Fonio (Digitaria exilis) is a tiny ancient grain that has been grown and celebrated across West Africa for thousands of years. Fonio is prized everywhere for its easy digestibility and low glycemic index. It’s often served to honored guests and to convalescents, diabetics, and of course people suffering from celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Farmers in West Africa have historically placed a high value on fonio not only for its nutritional properties but also because of the way it fits into the ecosystem. The fonio belt stretches across the southern edge of the Sahel, the band of semi-arid territory between the Sahara desert and tropical Africa’s lush forests.

Fonio is really fun and easy to use in the kitchen. It will substitute for your favorite rice, quinoa, or couscous recipes. Cooks in just 5 minutes!

It’s light + fluffy and has a nutty, earthy taste. Fonio goes with just about anything and soaks up spices + sauces beautifully. Cook it just like couscous and it’s perfect in salads, grain bowls, tabouleh, hot sides, and more. Fonio also makes a delicious hot cereal, veggie burger, stuffing, and gluten-free baking ingredient.

Ingredients: Fonio.

Yolélé Foods

“As a chef, writer, and activist I have been bringing West Africa’s culinary traditions to the developed world for over twenty years. First by cooking in restaurants and then through cookbooks, my business has been about spreading the word.” — Pierre Thiam We believe we all need to pay it back – to our ancestors, to our roots, to all of those who produced us. Yolélé is changing conditions for rural West African smallholder farmers. This population is among the world’s most vulnerable. Many young people seeking job opportunities simply leave – often to overcrowded cities where jobs are hard to find or risk their lives on the dangerous path towards Europe. Simply buying more of West Africa’s oldest cereal grain helps to alleviate extreme poverty, but we’re going a step further to truly unlock opportunity and transform communities in the West African Sahel. PEOPLE Our primary purpose is to invest in rural West African communities because, for many, the pathway out of extreme poverty is challenging. Yolélé is changing those circumstances. We are creating an export market for ingredients grown by rural West Africans and removing the obstacles that stand between those smallholder farmers and an American market that’s hungry for new and exciting sources of nutrition. Our solution is to maximize the dollars coming into farmers’ hands by removing limitations to their capacity to farm more abundantly and productively. Our vision is a network of smallholders stretching across West Africa. We also hope to grow the market for fonio in West Africa. We think it’s a shame that some West African countries rely on imported white rice as a staple food when this tremendously nutritious native grain is grown right at home. ENVIRONMENT Many of these rural West African communities have been hit hard by climate change – infrequent rainfall, extreme heat, and poor soil. Fonio addresses the impact of climate change by its very nature. Fonio’s deep roots allow it to grow with little water in dry soil. But we aim to be more purposeful, growing fonio as part of a resilient, organic agricultural system that combats desertification. We hope to transform ecologic as well as economic reality so that rural West Africa doesn’t need to send its young people away for the chance to thrive. Learn more about the sustainable supply chain here .

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