Latin: Eleusine coracana
This is an annual plant widely grown as a cereal in the arid areas of Africa and Asia. It is commonly known as African finger millet, red millet, caracan millet, koracan, and ragi. E. coracana is native to the Ethiopian Highlands. It is very adaptable to higher elevations and is grown in the Himalaya up to 2,300 metres in elevation.
Although statistics on individual millet species are confused, and are sometimes combined with sorghum, it is estimated that finger millet is grown on approximately 38,000 km2.
Once harvested, the seeds keep extremely well and are seldom attacked by insects or moulds. The long storage capacity makes finger millet an important crop in risk-avoidance strategies for poorer farming communities.
Finger millet is especially valuable as it contains the amino acid methionine, which is lacking in the diets of hundreds of millions of the poor who live on starchy staples such as cassava, plantain, polished rice, or maize meal.
Nutritional value of finger millet per 100g
Vitamins - A: 0.48mg
Thiamine (B1): 0.33mg
Riboflavin (B2): 0.11mg
Niacin: (B3) 1.2mg
The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), a member of the CGIAR consortium, partners with farmers, governments, researchers and NGOs to help farmers grow nutritious crops, including finger millet.
This helps their communities have more balanced diets and become more resilient to pests and drought. For example, the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement of Sorghum and Millets in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (HOPE) project is increasing yields of finger millet in Tanzania by encouraging farmers to grow improved varieties.
Finger millet is very high in calcium, rich in iron and fibre, and has a better energy content than other cereals. These characteristics make it ideal for feeding to infants and the elderly.