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The Grain of The Gambia - Pearl Millet or Coos

My Magazine 2024/01
1 min
Millet, referred to as "coos" in The Gambia, has various local expressions such as "dougub" (Wollof) or “nyoo” (Mandinka). The most commonly grown millet in The Gambia is pearl millet, considered one of the healthiest grains as it is gluten-free and rich in nutrients and minerals.

Millet is a primary crop in The Gambia, alongside rice, groundnuts, and corn. Unlike groundnuts, which serve as a cash crop, millet is cultivated for domestic consumption. Pearl millet, a drought-tolerant cereal crop, thrives in arid and semi-arid regions of Africa and Asia, enduring harsh conditions and poor soil quality. Due to its resilience, it is one of the initial crops planted before the rainy season, relying on morning dew to survive until the rains arrive. It matures in about three months, making it among the first crops harvested during the rainy season. Quick flowering allows many households to grow it for sustenance and sell surplus at markets to augment family income.

Primarily grown in the northern and central parts of The Gambia, millet is a dietary staple, especially in rural areas and among tribes like the Fulani and Serer. Its processing into pasta, made from flour and water, involves manual labor. Grains are pounded in large mortars with water to remove husks, then pounded further to produce flour. Skilled women create pasta by gradually adding water to the flour, shaping it into balls, known by various names depending on size and flour type. Couscous, among other variations like cherreh or arraw, is part of this group, differing (also in expressions) based on ethnic groups and locations within The Gambia.

Pearl millet serves as a versatile ingredient in Gambian cuisine, featured in dishes such as:

  • Laakh - a traditional dish associated with the Serrer and Wollof tribes.

  • Cherreh - a side dish loved by the Serrer tribe.

  • Chakry - a traditional dessert in The Gambia.

  • Porridge and panket, the local pancake.

Millet is available year-round in The Gambia, with prices fluctuating according to the season. It can be purchased at the Serekunda market, small markets in various areas, and larger wholesale and local retail shops, typically measured in cups or standardized empty tins of tomato paste, milk, or other canned goods. Small tins contain 400 g, while large ones hold 2 kg, priced between D200 to D350, respectively.

Prepared millet, known as Cherreh, is available in small bags at street shops priced from D20 to D50. It can be enjoyed with sauce or milk for a nutritious meal.

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