|Traditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)|
Chonyi: wimbi Embu: ugimbi English: finger millet Kamba: uimbi Kambe: wimbi Keiyo: kipsongik Kikuyu: ugimbi, mugimbi Kisii: obori Luhya: obure Luhya (Bukusu): bulo Luhya (Isukha): vule Luhya (Marachi): obule Luhya (Maragoli): voro, boro Luhya (Tachoni): obure, obul, bulo, obule Luo: kal Maa: oloikimbi Meru: ugimbi Nandi: kipsongik Pokot: matagh, mataighio (singular) Sanya: wimbi Swahili: wimbi, mwimbi Teso: akima Tharaka: ugimbi
Description: A grass usually 0.5-1 m high. FLOWERS: Head dirty green and branched into 5-7 spikes (fingers) usually 5-10 cm long. FRUITS: Grain usually reddish brown, dark brown or occasionally cream.
Ecology: In Africa found in cultivation from Nigeria east to Eritrea and south to South Africa and Namibia. Northeastern Africa is considered the centre of origin of this crop.
A traditional crop of many communities in Kenya, but nowadays grown to a relatively smaller extent than before. Still a major crop among the Kuria, Ilchamus, West Pokot District, Tugen and Marakwet, 0-2,400 m. Requires fertile soils and 650-1,000 mm well-distributed rainfall. Zones II-IV.
Uses: FOOD: The grain is normally made into flour used for the preparation of uji (porridge) and ugali (stiff porridge). It is often mixed with sorghum or maize in these preparations. Sour milk and melted butter are added to ugali made from finger millet and this is wrapped in new banana leaves and eaten by warriors (Luo). Flour and grain are also used in local beer brewing, especially among the Luo, Kuria and Luhya. Among the Luo, the seeds are germinated and dried (thowi), ground and put in water for 4-7 days to ferment. Fresh flour is put in water for a day or two and fried in balls (mbare). The two are mixed and left for about three days to ferment. The resulting brew is drunk through long hollow sticks called oseke tipped with a filter. Finger millet has been cultivated in Kenya since ancient times and is a traditional food for many communities, especially Keiyo, Marakwet, West Pokot, Tugen, Giriama, Taveta, Teso, Luo, Luhya, Kisii, Kikuyu, Ilchamus, Embu, Taita, Kuria, Kamba. Its use as a food is closely integrated in the traditional customs of many communities.
COMMERCIAL: Grain and flour are sold throughout the country. Now common in major food stores in towns.
Management: Traditionally sown by broadcasting. It can also be sown in lines, especially when intercropped. Finger millet requires fertile soil and is normally associated with shifting cultivation. It is less susceptible to bird attack than bulrush millet. Harvesting: Individual heads are cut and spread out to dry in the sun. These are threshed, winnowed and the grain stored. This grain can keep for over ten years. This ability to keep for a long time made it an important famine food in the olden days.
Remarks: Like many of the traditional grains, the cultivation and utilization of finger millet has declined in recent years. This may be attributed to:
· Low yields compared to maize. The latter has thus superseded finger millet where it used to be grown.
· Tedious traditional methods of preparing the grain.
· Not many people are used to eating it nowadays (mainly due to neglect). This has reduced demand and the market price for the grain. More recently, however, packaging and availability of the flour in shops and supermarkets has helped boost consumption in towns.