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Researchers task Southwest farmers on fonio cultivation

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As part of efforts to increase economic gains, farmers in the Southwest have been urged to embrace the cultivation of Fonio, known in some quarters as hungry rice.

Known as acha in Hausa, fonio is a notable crop in parts of West Africa. It is also one of the most nutritious grains. Its seed is rich in methionine and cystine, amino acids, vital to human health.

Researchers in the Food Science and Engineering department, Faculty of Engineering and Technology, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, Oyo State, led by Dr. Grace Babarinde, gave the hint at a community training programme, in Ikoyi-Ile, headquarters of Orire Local Council Area of the state.

The group of researchers said aside its economic gains, Fonio (Digitaria iburua), also contains some nutrients, which are useful for the body, as well as amino acid, which other cereals do not have.

According to them, Fonio grains are rich in essential amino acids needed for body growth, tissue functions and repairs such as methionine and cysteine, which are two human-vital amino acids almost absent in major cereals like sorghum, rice, wheat or barley.

They revealed that a white fonio variety contains much more sulphur than other cereals and are also mainly concentrated in the grain, noting that Methionine, which is built up with sulphur, is accumulated in fonio twice the amount in corn or millet and three times compared to rice.

Babarinde, who was lead speaker at the seminar, added that Methionine is an antioxidant used by the body to neutralise and prevent damage by highly charged, unstable molecules known as free radicals that are cancer causing.

Speaking on the various food items that it can be made from it, she said it could be used in bread, desserts or even spaghetti or pasta production. “Boiled fonio is generally consumed with vegetable stew, fish or meat. Products developed from it in this research are porridges (like oat used as breakfast), tuwo, chinchin, peanut, doughnut, and eba.

“On its benefits, the group of researchers discovered that it is rich in energy, iron, aids digestion and cardiovascular function, good for diabetics, gluten-free diet, an excellent meal for weight loss, good for the skin and also hair formation.”


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