Animal feed resources information system

Fonio (Digitaria exilis) grain

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This datasheet is pending revision and updating; its contents are currently derived from FAO's Animal Feed Resources Information System (1991-2002) and from Bo Göhl's Tropical Feeds (1976-1982).


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Common names 

Fonio, acha, acha grass, white acha, mouldy acha, fonio, fonio millet, fundi millet, fundi, white fonio, fundi, hungry rice, hungry millet, hungry koos,acha [English]; fonio, fonio blanc, fogno, fundi, petit mil, millet digitaire [French]; digitaria [Spanish]; podgi [Dahomey], sùurù [Yoruba]; apendi, fan fan kanpene, fen, ffan, fo, foni, pue, pwe, sereme [Burkina-Faso] dibong, findi, findi ba, findo, monyimonyo, mormor [Gambia]; atcha, epich, kabega [Ghana]; kpende, kpendo, fayaon, foigné, foignié, foinye,fonde, fongo, foni, fonie, fonié, fonio, fonyo, founde, foundé, foundioune, founié, funde, fundé, fundenyo, fundiune, funie, kpendo, pende, podé, podegui, podégui, pounié, punie, tau [Guinea]; bofinhè, fènhe, findo, fonio, fundo, rote, uante, udote, urote, urrote [Guinea-Bissau]; fini, pohim, pohin, pom [Ivory Coast]; faïné, fani, fanom, feni, findi, fingi, fini, fodio, foni, fonio, foundé, fundé, funi, po, pon, serémé, tau [Mali]; entaya, fingi, fira, fodio, fonio, foyo [Niger]; acca, accà, accaa, accàà, accari, acha, akang, anea, beenci, beentsu, burma, bwrik, cà, caba, chehel, chyung, cikarai, cun, derè, difera, firo, fulubihi, gashish, giya, gumba, imeru, impuke, intaya, ira, irya, kashá, kasha, kolimo, kreb, kunu, mili, ndat, ntiya, num-mwi, omburu, osikapa acha, pocho, pyeng, salla, san, sarembe, siring, suung, suuru, sùurù, syinang, tuk, tuwo, wete, weté, zor [Nigeria]; dekolé, ebonay, ebonyaie, eboniaye, efoleb, efoled, fide, find, findi, fonden, fonden ibala, fonden ifesyax, fonden i swegt, fonden i swget, fonio, fono, geponden, n’dendue, n’dengue, ndengue, sanglé, séréné [Senegal]; ampindi, apende, apende pafunf, apende, palel apende pa siragbe, apeni, apote, fani, fonde, fondiba, fonye, funa, funde, funde na, fundenyi, fundi, fundili, funi, funye, kaene, kpendo, kputi, milet, mpende, paene, peni, penile, pote, siragbe, yele fui [Sierra Leone]; figm, kafea, nfoni, pigim, tschamma [Togo] (Vodouhè et al., 2006; Quattrocchi, 2006)

Taxonomic information 

The fonio species in this datasheet is white fonio referred to as Digitaria exilis Stapf. Another fonio species, black fonio, exists and was named after the name Iboru given by locals in northern Nigeria and then tranformed into Digitaria iburua  by Stapf in 1915 (Cruz et al., 2016). Black fonio also called iburu has slightly bigger and darker grains, hence the name black.


Fonio grain is the seed produced by the annual cereal species Digitaria exilis also called fonio. Worldwide, fonio (Digitaria exilis Stapf) is a little known crop. However, in West Africa, where it is mainly produced, it plays a major role in food security as it matures faster than other crops and can be harvested one month before other cereals like maize or millet. Fonio grain is small and husked. Fonio provides high quality grain, one of the world best tasting (nutty) cereal grain, with favourable aminoacid profile (Vodouhè et al., 2006; NRC, 1996). Fonio grain is thus primarily used as food and not feed though it can be very valuable for monogastric animals (Clottey et al., 2006). Fonio straw and chaff provide forage (see Fonio (Digitaria exilis) forage datasheet).


Fonio is an ascending, free-tillering annual cereal grass. It has slender, kneed stems growing up to 80 cm in height. The leaves are alternate, simple. The leaf-blade is glabrous, linear to lanceolate in shape, 5–15 cm long × 0.3–0.9 cm broad. The inflorescence, a terminal digitate panicle, bears 2–5 slender, spike-like racemes, up to 15 cm long. The spikelet is stalked, narrowly ellipsoid, surrounded by lemma, palea, and glumes. The fruits is a minute caryopsis (grain), oblong to globose-ellipsoid in shape, c. 0.5 mm long, white to pale brown or purplish in colour (Vodhouhè et al., 2006). 1,000 grains weigh only 0.5 g on average. making fonio the smallest cereal grain worldwide (Jideani et al., 1993).


Fonio is a staple food but also gourmet and prestige food ("chief’s food"). It is used to make special couscous types in the Hausa parts of Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana. It is cooked with beans to prepare a dish for special occasions in southern Togo. In Nigeria, fonio grain is milled to yield a flour that is used for porridges (thick, unfermented porridge named "tuwo acha", and thin, fermented porridges: "kunu acha") or for bread, in mixture with other flours. Boiled whole grains can be eaten with vegetables, fish or meat. It is possible to make a beer  "Tchapalo" from black fonio grain. In the Dominican Republic, fonio is used in religious festivities inherited from African slaves (Vodouhè et al., 2006).

Large fonio production intended for human consumption is sometimes restricted by time consuming post-harvest handling, especially dehulling and polishing of the small grains. In this case, fonio grain can be considered a valuable, readily digestible raw material for farm animals (Vodouhè et al., 2006). In ethnomedicine, fonio grain is recommended for lactating women and diabetic people (Vodouhè et al., 2006).


Fonio originated from West Africa. It is one of the oldest indigenous cereal of West Africa. The Dogon of Mali refer to fonio as the original atom of the universe. During the14th century, in "Voyage to Sudan", the Berber explorer Ibn Battûta reported a couscous prepared with foûni (fonio), a grain "which is like mustard seed"(Cruz et al., 2016). In the 19th century, the French René Caillé describes fonio as a small grass species and staple food used to prepare the gruel "tau". In the early 20th it was reported to grow fast and prevent food shortages (Cruz et al., 2016).

Annual, delicate, free-tillering, erect, inflorescence aterminal digitate panicle, slender sessile racemes, spikelets acute, sterile lower floret, bisexual fertile upper floret,

staple crop, tolerant of poor sandy soils, economic plant, host of some mycotoxins, human and animal food, extremely nutritious cereal, a very important crop, can be utilized in ways similar to rice, straw used as forage, fodder, only cultivated, can be cut for silage, very small grains used as a famine food, resembles mustard seeds, ground into flour and cooked as a gruel,

in Nigeria a flour from acha and baobab grains used together, grains used for brewing beer,

grows well on poor sandy and infertile soils, adapted to wetter areas, commonly grown along rivers, often confused with and considered by many
authors as a synonym of Digitaria iburua Stapf

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

The grain can be used efficiently for all classes of livestock. Of interest as a feed for monogastric animals because of its high methionine content.

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This datasheet is pending revision and updating; its contents are currently derived from FAO's Animal Feed Resources Information System (1991-2002) and from Bo Göhl's Tropical Feeds (1976-1982).

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 88.8 2.0 85.3 91.2 6
Crude protein % DM 8.5 1.3 7.4 11.0 6
Crude fibre % DM 3.4 3.9 0.4 9.4 6
NDF % DM 7.8 1
ADF % DM 2.2 1
Lignin % DM 0.3 1
Ether extract % DM 1.7 1.2 0.3 3.4 6
Ash % DM 5.8 5.4 0.3 14.5 6
Starch (polarimetry) % DM 86.5 1
Total sugars % DM 0.2 1
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.3 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 1.0 0.9 0.2 2.2 4
Phosphorus g/kg DM 2.1 1.2 0.6 3.2 4
Potassium g/kg DM 1.8 1
Magnesium g/kg DM 0.9 1
Manganese mg/kg DM 8 1
Zinc mg/kg DM 27 1
Copper mg/kg DM 4 1
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Arginine % protein 3.8 1
Cystine % protein 2.8 1
Glycine % protein 3.2 1
Histidine % protein 2.1 1
Isoleucine % protein 4.0 1
Leucine % protein 9.8 1
Lysine % protein 2.6 1
Methionine % protein 5.6 1
Phenylalanine % protein 5.1 1
Threonine % protein 4.0 1
Tryptophan % protein 1.4 1
Tyrosine % protein 3.6 1
Valine % protein 5.8 1
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 86.8 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 82.7 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 14.3 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 12.0 *
Pig nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Energy digestibility, growing pig % 84.8 *
DE growing pig MJ/kg DM 14.6 *
MEn growing pig MJ/kg DM 14.3 *
NE growing pig MJ/kg DM 11.6 *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Carbiener et al., 1960; CIRAD, 1991; Cirad, 2008; Mongodin et al., 1965; Oyenuga, 1968

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:44:12

Datasheet citation 

DATASHEET UNDER CONSTRUCTION. DO NOT QUOTE. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/228 Last updated on March 22, 2019, 17:45

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