Millet, botanically known as eleusine coracana, is widely grown around the world for food.
Millet farmers can earn more money if they add value to their product.
Millet, known to have been cultivated in East Asia for the last 10,000 years, takes two to three months to harvest.
With more Ugandans becoming conscious of their diets, millet is increasingly becoming an important part of the menu for many families.
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 sh2,000-sh3000, a farmer is assured of sh3m to sh6m 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.
Its healing nature is due to its quality protein, magnesium, phosphorus and fiber 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 bread, muffins, cookies and cakes.
Millet should be harvested when the grasses and seed heads have turned golden brown. It can be harvested either by hand or by the use of a mechanical thresher.
After harvesting, it needs about two weeks to dry up well for good quality production.
To save seeds, cut the mature seed cluster from the stem. The mature seeds will be swollen and released easily from the cluster by simple rubbing or threshing.
Allow the seeds head to dry for a few days to facilitate easy removal of the seed. Once they are released from the stem, allow them to dry for a few more days before packing.
Millet harvest should be packed in sacks and stored in a cool and dry place.
Bushera, major beverage
Bushera is one of the main byproducts of sorghum and millet. A kilogram of fermented sorghum costs sh2,000-3,000.
However, to process six litres of bushera, you need only one and a half kilograms, which is about sh4000.
At sh15,000 for the six litres, it means that a farmer multiplies the earnings by over 150%.
“Harvest the mature sorghum and soak it in water overnight. This can be done using a drum or a big saucepan, depending on the amount of sorghum. Thereafter, the fermenting process starts,” says Betty Busingye, also known as ‘Maama Kasera’.
-The fermenting process involves covering it with banana leaves for three-four days. You can also add mud on top of the banana leaves. Mud helps generate good heat to ferment the grains. After the four days, it is then dried. By now, it has changed from red to a blackish colour.
When it is dried, we take it to a mill and it is processed into flour. The flour is then put in a big saucepan where hot water is also added. The mixture is stirred for some time until it creates a paste.
It is kept as a paste for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Then, more water is added and more stirring done, before it is left for a night. The saucepan or drum used should be covered.
-The next day, it is pasteurised by boiling it and then a preservative added to make it last longer. Use sodium bentonite as the preservative.
The bushera is now ready for packing. Some pack in 200ml bottles while others pack in 500ml bottles. These bottles cost sh300each.
This beverage is now commonly sold in supermarkets and stores around the country.