A Forgotten Ancient Grain That Could Help Africa Prosper | Pierre Thiam

A Forgotten Ancient Grain That Could Help Africa Prosper | Pierre Thiam

Pierre Thiam is a New York City chef born in Senegal. While spending his time in the city, he came to realize that there are no African restaurants. This realization made him think back to Senegal, return home to explore the foods and area, and find out what was going on. Senegal happens to have an ancient grain in its midst – fonio.

Fonio is a highly nutritious cereal that contains two more amino acids than other grains like wheat and barley. And yet, no one uses it – not even people in Senegal. Due to it’s consideration as “country food,” people began using rice rather than the food they could grow and consume at home. Not only does it make more sense to use fonio, it would also solve a greater problem – desertization causing huge floods of people to migrate away from Senegal in search of work and better lives. Fonio happens to be able to grow in poor soil and could be a huge market for the people of Senegal, especially with the help of new machinery that can harvest it, which used to be an issue as it is rather difficult. There are many answers that lie within fonio and Pierre Thiam hopes to work together with African officials to build a fonio mill and use this powerful resource.

Key Points:

  • 1Forget quinoa. Meet fonio, an ancient “miracle grain” native to Senegal that’s versatile, nutritious and gluten-free.
  • 2In this passionate talk, chef Pierre Then shares his obsession with the hardy crop and explains why he believes that its industrial-scale cultivation could transform societies in Africa.
  • 3Learn how to make fonio sushi with chunks of fresh vegetables in a mixture of the ancient fonio grain and sweet potato.


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