Fonio from Togo

Some agricultural products from Europe are so cheap in Africa that local family farmers are unable to move their goods. Subsidies and our highly industrialised agriculture are to blame. To raise awareness of this issue, we're now importing grain from West Africa to Europe.

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Fonio from Togo

Some agricultural products from Europe are so cheap in Africa that local family farmers are unable to move their goods. Subsidies and our highly industrialised agriculture are to blame. To raise awareness of this issue, we're now importing grain from West Africa to Europe.

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Each year, the EU exports many tonnes of discounted agricultural products to countries in Africa. While it seems to make sense at first, it leaves African producers unable to compete. Their locally grown food is more expensive than products from the EU.

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Fonio

Fonio is hardly demanding on the soil, needs only little water and is ready for harvesting within a few weeks. It is therefore ideal for bridging dry phases.

Fonio is hardly demanding on the soil, needs only little water and is ready for harvesting within a few weeks. It is therefore ideal for bridging dry phases.

The so-called dehusking or shelling of the grains is done by machines.

The so-called dehusking or shelling of the grains is done by machines.

An important processing step is washing the fonio millet. This is done entirely by hand at Bodhi Food.

An important processing step is washing the fonio millet. This is done entirely by hand at Bodhi Food.

After the fonio grains have been washed, the employees of Bodhi Food lay them out to dry.

After the fonio grains have been washed, the employees of Bodhi Food lay them out to dry.

In the end, the fonio looks similar to cane sugar - depending on the degree of processing, it even looks slightly transparent.

In the end, the fonio looks similar to cane sugar - depending on the degree of processing, it even looks slightly transparent.

The three varieties from the left: Blanchi, Précuit and Décortiqué.

The three varieties from the left: Blanchi, Précuit and Décortiqué.

How do EU imports affect the local market?

The EU exports high volumes of agricultural products to African countries. These are mainly foodstuffs such as flour, powdered milk or even chicken. This gives the local people access to a wide range of inexpensive goods.  

While it seems to make sense at first, it leaves African producers unable to compete. Their locally grown food is more expensive than products from the EU. This is because the imports come from subsidised, intensive and highly industrialised agriculture. Moreover, there are reduced tariffs on these imports.  

On the other hand, agriculture in West Africa is not subsidised at all and is based on small-scale farming structures, with each producer farming extensively on a few hectares of land. And anyone able to produce enough to even consider exporting is deterred by the high tariffs imposed by the EU on imports – up to 25 per cent for grain.

What is fonio?

Fonio is an ancient staple food. In botanical terms, fonio is a type of finger millet. The grains of the annual plant are suitable for making couscous and porridge. Fonio can also be ground into flour for use in a variety of baked goods. We'll be publishing recipes regularly throughout our campaign. By the end, you'll be fonio experts!  

Working with our partner in Togo, we agreed on three different grades for the first batch of exports. We'll deliver all three types in one package: 

  • Blanchi: pale, twice-hulled grains. For cooking and baking.  
  • Décortiqué: hulled once, similar to whole grain rice.  
  • Précuit: simply hulled and pre-cooked fonio grains. Similar to parboiled rice.

Where does fonio come from?

We source the fonio from the Togolese processing company Bodhi Foods in the city of Niamtougou in eastern Togo. The company works with 814 farming families from 28 cooperatives in 25 villages in the Doufelgou region. Each of the families cultivates an average of 0.8 hectares of land, on which they grow organic fonio.  

After harvesting, the fonio is delivered to Bodhi Foods, where the company's employees hull and pack it. Bodhi Foods employs 12 people year-round and another 50 during the harvest season.

Aren't we taking a staple food away from people?

Trade is the key to improving people's lives in countries like Togo. If farming families didn't export goods, they would only be able to sell their products locally. Since there is too much competition with cheap imports from the EU, they would end up with no income at all and the local grain varieties would disappear over time.  

In addition, fonio is a crop that is resistant to hazards such as drought, isn't fussy about soil and grows very quickly – it takes only about 70 days from sowing to harvest. Its robust nature also makes fonio a good candidate for crops that provide income to farming families in times of climate change.  

So let's work together to raise awareness of the negative impact of export subsidies and prevent valuable crops like fonio from being forgotten. Order now!

Sources


Beyond chicken parts: What is keeping Africa's agricultural products from being competitive https://www.welthungerhilfe.de/welternaehrung/rubriken/entwicklungspolitik-agenda-2030/wettbewerbsnachteile-afrikanischer-agrarprodukte/ (accessed on 08/12/2021) 

We are hurting Africa's farmers! https://www.welt-sichten.org/artikel/32885/wir-schaden-afrikas-bauern (accessed on 08/12/2021) 

Fonio millet https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foniohirse (accessed on 08/12/2021) 

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