ABC's of Finger millet

Cultivation of finger millet has over time been on a free fall in the country despite the immense nutritional benefits the crop has to humans. In most instances farmers have cited varied factors contributing to the reduced production with many citing lack of buoyant breeds.

In respect to this factor, scientists have come in handy and offered farmers a solution through provision of hybrid breeds. The scientists from the Addis Ababa University supported by Bio-Innovate Africa successfully released a new finger millet variety Addis -01 (ACC 203544), the first ever released by the university. The breed which is expected to revitalize the growing of the crop in Africa will soon reach farmers hands through large-scale production that is soon to be commissioned.

The profound benefits of finger millet include ability to break starch to liquids. The germinated (malted) finger millet grain acts as a catalyst to liquefy any of the world's major starchy foods: wheat, rice, maize, sorghum, potatoes, cassava, turning these staples into liquid form, pre-digests the starches and makes the food easy for the body to absorb. By releasing the food sugars, it renders even the blandest staples palatable.

Finger millet is also a vital baby food due to its above element mainly for weaning purposes. Adding a tiny amount of malted finger millet grain turns a bowl of hot starchy porridge into a watery liquid that matches the viscosity of a bottled baby food, such as those sold in supermarkets. This is fed as full meal to a child who is too small or too weak to get down solids.

Unlike other grains, finger millet is richer in protein and rare minerals. It has high amounts of methionine, an amino acid lacking in the diets of people who live on starchy foods such as cassava, cooked bananas, polished rice, or maize meal. Its protein (elusinin) is more easily digested and it has the third highest iron content of any grain, after amaranth and quinoa, a South American ‘super grain’.

Finger millet is the only crop that can tame farmers’ after harvest losses because of its resistance to pests. The seeds are so small that weevils cannot squeeze inside. In fact, its unthreshed heads resist storage pests so well they can be stored for 10 years or more without insect damage. It is said that if kept dry the seed may remain in good condition for up to 50 years.

Finger millet is boasts of having an African Origin. It is said to have originated from the highlands of Uganda and Ethiopia and is grown in Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, DRC, Malawi, and Zambia. Hundreds of thousands of people in Ethiopia depend on finger millet as an important food crop. Currently the annual production is estimated at 30 million tones with Africa accounting for over half of it. It is important to note that whereas its production is decreasing in some African countries like Kenya, in Asia (India, China, Nepal) its production is steadily rising. Compared to the research lavished on wheat, rice, and maize, for instance, Finger millet (Eleusine coracana) is hardly researched. By and large, the plant suffers little from diseases and insects, but a ferocious fungal disease called "blast" can devastate whole fields. It has an average yield of about 1,800kgs (threshed grain) per hectare in Uganda and the yield can increase if grown under optimum conditions.

Additional data adopted from Bio-innovate  adopted Program