Today, I would like to highlight the work of yet another African who has been working on alternatives, this time bringing back ancient grains to the forefront. Meet Senegalese Sanoussi Diakite, professor of mechanical engineering, who has invented a fonio husker machine. Diakite has been working tirelessly for several years to find ways to husk fonio. For those who know it, fonio is a cereal that has been cultivated for centuries if not millennia in at least 16 African countries from Cape Verde to Chad. Fonio is nutritious, gluten-free, high in dietary fiber, and drought resistant. It grows anywhere and does not need fertilizers. It is one of the fastest-growing cereals, reaching maturity in as little as 6 to 8 weeks. Unfortunately, it is very labor intensive to husk. It takes about 2 hours to pound (yes you heard it right, women pound the fonio) to get 2 kg of fonio. It could easily take a woman the whole day to pound the fonio if she has a large family (not including the preparation of the meal afterwards), and this is one of the reasons many have shied away from the ancient grain in their nutrition. Diakite’s husking machine produces 5 kg of fonio in 8 minutes. Talk of a revolution!
The Fonio Husker Machine has been patented, and effectively husks and cleans the fonio grains as they pass through the shifting and flexible paddle which is set on a vertical axis and on top of a fixed plate. The separation of grain and husk is done simultaneously. To learn more, take a look at the article on MyHero, Kumatoo, and and his bio as he was awarded the Rolex Awards for Enterprise. It might have taken time, but like he says himself to BBC, everything is endurance and perseverance; at the core, he wanted to help women and reinstate the millennial grain.