A gluten-free grain that grows in Africa’s impoverished and semi-arid Sahel region is taking off as a health food in New York, the Senegalese chef who masterminded its revival said on Monday, outlining plans to almost double production by 2023.
Pierre Thiam last year began exporting fonio to New York, hoping to help smallholder communities in the Sahel, which stretches from Mauritania and Mali in the west to Sudan and Eritrea in the east, and is home to more than 100 million people.
The grain is on the menus of more than 60 New York restaurants and is soon to be in all of the city’s Whole Foods stores, said an executive at Yolele Foods, the company that Thiam cofounded.
“It’s a grain that could play an important role in some of the poorest regions in the world. The Sahel, nothing grows in that region, but fonio grows abundantly,” Thiam said at the international Slow Food Festival in Turin, Italy.
“It’s also great for the environment. It matures in 60 days and grows with very little water. There’s even a nickname they have for fonio — the lazy farmers’ crop,” he said.
Thiam said that he hoped to expand annual production from 600,000 tonnes to 1 million tonnes over the next five years.
He wants to have 7,000 families in Senegal producing the crop by 2020, and also plans to expand production to Burkina Faso.
Yolele Foods describes fonio as a “gluten-free, nutrient rich, ancient grain that takes just 5 minutes to cook.”
The company’s Web site includes recipes for everything from fonio breakfast cereal to kimchi with fonio.
“When we rolled out at Whole Foods Harlem, they built a display for us within the first couple of weeks, because we were selling out so quickly,” Yolele director of business development Claire Alsup said.
Thiam, who opened his first restaurant in New York in 1997, said that changing weather patterns had hit the crops commonly grown in the Sahel, but that fonio grew quickly even in poor soil and under dry conditions.
The crop was largely abandoned under French rule when local farmers were made to grow peanuts and grains such as wheat were imported, but it is being rediscovered, he said.
Thiam said he was aware that popular demand for traditional grains such as fonio and millet could push up prices, putting them out of the reach of local consumers.
“We’re conscious of that. We definitely want the first beneficiaries to be the smallholder communities of West Africa,” he said.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
China on Thursday lashed out at the US at a high-level UN meeting over its criticism on the COVID-19 pandemic, with its envoy declaring, “Enough is enough.” Two days after US President Donald Trump used his annual address to the General Assembly to attack China’s record, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, also took an outraged tone — after which her Chinese counterpart showed palpable anger. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) told a Security Council meeting on global governance attended through videoconference
PAPAL POLITICS? The controversial Australian prelate’s return to Rome comes just days after the pope fired one of his most powerful opponents over a financial scandal Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis’ former finance minister, is to soon return to the Vatican during an extraordinary economic scandal for the first time since he was cleared of child abuse allegations in Australia five months ago, a church agency said yesterday. Pell is to fly back to Rome today, CathNews, an information agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said, citing “sources close to” Pell. Pell’s return follows Francis last week firing one of the cardinal’s most powerful opponents, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, over a financial scandal. Pell was regarded as the third-highest-ranking Vatican official and was attempting to wrestle the Holy See’s