Fonio is a delicious, healthy cereal eaten in West Africa. But for centuries it had a drawback – hours of pounding and winnowing were needed to remove the husks from the grain. Sanoussi Diakité invented a machine that removes them in a fraction of the time.
The 50 kg machine invented in the 1990s by Diakité, an engineer and teacher, has transformed attitudes to fonio. The device costs between US$1,320 and $2,200, depending on the type, which makes it too expensive for individual households. But governments across West Africa have begun buying it to make it accessible to as many people as possible.
Fonio is extremely prized, but people are more and more reluctant to prepare it. I decided that a machine needed to be invented.
More than 180 of his husk-removal machines have been distributed in eight countries. Fonio is no longer ignored by the Senegalese media, and there has been a renewal of interest in this grain, with many farmers doubling the average terrain they allocate for growing it. The Rolex Award has won Diakité’s machine national and international renown.
Fonio Day, suggested by Diakité, is now celebrated annually. He has been appointed Director General of Senegal’s National Office for Professional Training.
Amount of fonio that Diakité's machine can process in 5 to 8 minutes