Millet as a staple food in Africa

Millet is a staple food crop for a number of countries in Africa. The grain is drought resistant and it is a useful crop in any soil even ones with little nutrition. This makes millet an important stable food for most countries of Africa. .

Origin of millet

Millet grain originated from Asia and Africa and in Africa it is believed millet grain originated in the mountains of East Africa.

Farming of millet

Millet is grown on small scale by households mainly for household consumption and the surplus for sale in order to earn some income. Commercial millet production has not yet taken off because of demand constraints. Millet is planted on 18.5 million ha in Africa. It is estimated 500 million people depend on millet for their survival. Approximately one third of the world’s millet is grown in Africa and Asia and about 70% of it in West Africa

Millet producing countries in Africa

Major Millet producing countries in Africa include Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritius and Senegal in the west and Sudan and Uganda in East Africa

Millet planting

The garden is prepared using either the hoe or ploughing with a tractor. Plant the seed at least 1 foot apart cover with at least 1 inch of soil. Weed the plot because this will help the soil retain water and Millet can be grown with other food crops because of numerous advantages associated with intercropping and mixed cropping.


Millet maturity

In Africa, there are different varieties of millet; some take 83 days from planting to maturity and other varieties mature in 130 days.

Millet Harvesting

Millet is taken from the field by removing the long grainy head from the rest of the stock before it can be used for food. It is processed to remove the uneatable portion of the husk. The millet is first threshed to remove the usable grain from the hard husk and break-up the grain into smaller more manageable pieces. Further separation is then done by manual pounding.


Preservation of millet

The millet from the garden is dried under the sun shine and is then processed to get clean grains ready for grinding   into millet flour.

For commercial processing, thermal processing is the most extensively used method in millet preservation to destroy microorganisms thereby extending shelf-life and hydrothermal treatment of pearl millet grains is also an effective method to inactivate lipase and to enhance the shelf-life of the resultant flour.

Volumes of millet produced in Africa

Worldwide, there are nine species of millet with total production of 28.38 million tons, out of which 11.36 million tons are produced in Africa

Millet products


Importance of millet

  • Both soft and alcoholic drinks are made from millets.
  • Millet contain high protein, ash, calcium, phosphorus and potassium
  • Millet is used as food
  • Millet is used as animal feed in form of forage
  • Source of income to the farmers
  • It can also be used as animal feed
  • Millet grass is also used for mulching

Food content

  • Gluten protein
  • Amino group of proteins
  • Rich in phenolic acids



Atwijukire Deborah