The Advantages of Growing and Using Finger Millet

Crop productionNutrition

Notes to broadcasters

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Finger millet is a staple crop in many communities.  It is a source of good, healthy food during difficult times, such as drought or crop failure.  It’s relatively cheap and easy to grow and stores well for years.  The Notes section at the end of the script gives different names for finger millet that are used in different countries.



Program host

Mrs. Mamba:
An agricultural extension worker

Program Host:
Today, we’re going to hear about a crop that’s cheap to grow … stores well for years … is easy to prepare and cook … and is good for you. This may sound too good to be true, but there is such a crop. Many of you have probably heard of it, some of you may already grow it — it’s called finger millet. Our guest in the studio today is Mrs. Mamba, an agriculture extension worker, who is here to talk about finger millet. Welcome to our show, Mrs. Mamba.

Mrs. Mamba:
Thank you. I’d like to start by saying that finger millet is a staple crop in many communities. It is an important food to help you get through hard times … such as drought or crop failure.

And there are many other good reasons to grow finger millet. A single seed produces a lot of grains, so the seed is not expensive. It doesn’t need any extra fertilizer or water to grow well. And it’s seldom bothered by pests. Finger millet can be grown almost anywhere, including hilly areas, and you can plant it with other crops.

But one of the best things about finger millet is that it stores well for long periods of time.

Program host:
That means that it can be saved and used when other food supplies are scarce.

Mrs. Mamba:
Yes. And that’s why finger millet is often called a famine crop. Finger millet stores well because it has small seeds.

This means that the seeds dry quickly. Insects can’t get inside them and damage the grain during storage. If you live in a humid area, the millet will store much longer than larger seed cereals like maize. It doesn’t rot when it’s stored during the wet months.


We are talking with Mrs. Mamba, an agriculture expert, about a crop called finger millet. We have learned that finger millet is cheap and easy to grow, and why it stores well. Now can you tell us, Mrs. Mamba, why finger millet is a good food for your family?

Mrs. Mamba:
Well, as I said, finger millet stores well for a long time … it can be saved for hard times like a drought or famine, when other food becomes scarce. But finger millet is also a nutritious food. It contains many essential nutrients that people need to stay healthy. It gives your family energy for a long time after it’s eaten. That’s good if you’re working hard all day.

One of the best things about finger millet is that you can make nutritious food quickly. The small millet seeds take less time to cook.

And most of us don’t have a lot of time to spend cooking these days.

People in different countries prepare finger millet in different ways. In India, the crop is usually ground into flour for cakes, puddings or porridge. A fermented drink or beer is made from the grain. The grain can be malted. Flour from the malted grain makes a healthy food for babies and people who are sick or weak.

In Africa, finger millet is used to make porridge, bread, malt and beer. It can be mixed with cassava to make flour. It is also used for brewing. If you add a small amount of malted grain to a bowl of hot, starchy porridge … it turns into a watery liquid. You can feed it to small or weak babies. If you eat a lot of starchy foods like wheat, rice, maize and potatoes … the grain from finger millet helps make these foods easier for your body to digest.

Some people use the straw from finger millet as food for working and milking animals. It is also used for thatching, for making walls for small granaries and for making dishes.

So you see, finger millet has many uses.


Program host:
Today we’ve been talking about finger millet with Mrs. Mamba, an agriculture expert. Let’s review what we have learned …

Finger millet is a crop you can store and use when other crops are scarce. It doesn’t need extra water or fertilizer. And it’s cheap to grow because a lot of grains can be grown from a single seed. It can be grown year-round … when water is available.

Finger millet stores well because its small seeds dry quickly. It doesn’t rot when it’s stored during the wet months and it can be kept for years.

It doesn’t take long to prepare or cook finger millet. It’s healthy food for your family and it can be especially good for small babies and people who are weak or ill.

The straw can be used as food for your animals.

Thank you for being here today, Mrs. Mamba. I’ve enjoyed our talk and I’ve learned a lot about finger millet.

Think about growing finger millet as a healthy food for your family.


Researched by: Vijay Cuddeford, Researcher/writer, Toronto, Canada.

Written by: Carol Jamieson, Researcher/writer, Toronto, Canada.

Reviewed by: Vigneswaran Thievendaram, Agriculture specialist, Cambridge, Canada.

Common names for finger millet :

Afrikaans   Vogel gierst 
Arabic       Tailabon 
Bantu        Bule 
English  Finger millet, African millet, koracan 
French Petit mil, eleusine cultivee, coracan, koracan 
German Fingerhirse 
Swahili Wimbi, ulezi 
Ethiopia Dagussa (Amharic/Sodo), tokuso (amharic), barankiya (Oromo)
India Ragi 
Kenya Wimbi (kiswahili), mugimbi (Kikuyu)
Malawi Mawere, lipoko, usanje, khakwe, mulimbi, lupodo, malesi, mawe 
Nepal Koddo 
The Sudan Tailabon (Arabic), ceyut (Bari)
Tanzania Mwimbi, mbege 
Uganda Bulo 
Zambia Kambale, lupoko, mawele, majolothi, amale, bule 
Zimbabwe Rapoko, zviyo, njera, rukweza, mazhovole, uphoko, poho

Information sources

Millets and Pseudo-Millets.  Field Studies Institute for Environmental Education.

Thrust on ecotechnology,” by Asha Krishnakumar, Frontline, Vol. 15, No. 18, August 29 – September 11, 1998.

Maintenance and Conservation of “Heirloom” Varieties in Indian Agro-ecosystems, by J.K. Maheswari.

Contributions of Tribal Communities in the Conservation of Traditional Cultivars, by T. Ravishankar and V. Selvam. M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation: Third Cross Road, Taramani Institutional Area, CPT Campus, Chennai (Madras) 600 113, INDIA.  Tel: +91-44-235 1698, 235 0698,  Fax : +91-44-235, E-mail:

Sorghum and millets in human nutrition.  Food and Agriculture Organization.  1995.

Lost Crops of Africa, Volume I: Grains, 1996. National Academy of Sciences.

Handbook of Energy Crops. Unpublished. James A. Duke. 1983.

Kolli Hills: Diversity of Millets.  M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation. Third Cross Road, Taramani Institutional Area, CPT Campus, Chennai (Madras) 600 113, INDIA.  Tel: +91-44-235 1698, 235 0698, Fax : +91-44-235, E-mail: