Millet, botanically known as eleusine coracana, is widely grown around the world for food and fodder. They are relatively drought resistant and can withstand difficult production environments.
Millet, known to have been cultivated in East Asia for the last 10,000 years, takes two to three months to harvest and with more Ugandans becoming conscious of their diets, millet is increasingly becoming an important part of their menu.
It is also the main ingredient for the popular local brew – malwa.
Ugandan millet is also exported to Russia, Senegal and Nigeria.
With yields per acre at between 1-1.5 tonnes and a kilogramme currently going for between sh3,000 and sh4,500, a farmer is assured of sh5m-sh8m per acre of millet. This is against an investment of about sh1m in the acre. Millet can be consumed in many ways, however, when one adds value to it, the earnings more than triple.
Hot millet porridge is useful for some rheumatic and arthritic pains. It is a good food for balancing blood sugar and it helps those suffering from thrush.
Pregnant women benefit from millet for its phytonutrients and iron content, which is higher than any cereal grain.
Millet is also a remedy for stopping vomiting, relieving diarrhoea, promoting urination and soothing morning sickness. Its healing nature is due to its quality protein, magnesium, phosphorus and fibre content, as well as its alkalising properties, making it perfect for gluten-free and healthy baking. Millet in your home can be used as a staple. Bake it into quick breads and muffins, cookies and cakes.
The commonest type of millet grown in Uganda is the finger millet, which is a major staple and cash crop in northern, eastern, western and south-western Uganda.
However, research on the crop has been limited. Uganda is the seventh biggest producer of millet in the world with China leading. The commonest grown millet variety is the Seremi series, produced at Serere.
The millet mostly grown in Uganda is the pearl millet, known for its tolerance of drought and heat. The grain grows on long spike-shaped seed heads, which are easily harvested by hand or machine. Pearl millet is a major staple in Africa, parts of the Arab world, India and Pakistan.
Millet needs well-prepared gardens. For improved yield, add organic compost or a nitrogen-rich fertiliser. Spacing of approximately 2 inches between the plants and one foot between the rows is recommended.
Cover with at least 1 inch of soil. Add compost to the plot as the millet grows. Like corn, millet draws a lot of nitrogen from the soil.
Mulch the plot with straw or other covering if desired. This can help the soil retain water and cut down on pests.
Compiled by Joshua Kato (editor, Harvest Money) and Betty Businge (makes packed Bushera from millet)