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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Eleusine coracana (African finger millet, Ragi) 

osgras [Afrikaans]; uphoko [Zulu; mpogo [Pedi]; majolothi [Ndabele]; mufhoho [Venda]

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Monocotyledons > Order: Poales > Family: Poaceae

Eleusine coracana (African finger millet, Ragi)  

Eleusine coracana, Old hotel building site, near Castleburn, Vumba, Zimbabwe. [photo Petra Ballings , Flora of Zimbabwe]


This species was domesticated in Africa from the wild form Eleusine africana more that 5000 years ago (this dating is based on the seeds found in a 5000 year old archaeological site in Ethiopia). In southern Africa it has been cultivated since the Iron Age. See Flora of Zimbabwe.

Within southern Africa, African finger millet is favoured as a source of malt for brewing of beer because of the sweetness it gives the malt. Further north in Africa it is used more commonly as a source of food such as porridge (e.g. in Zambia and Malawi). Plants are harvested by hand using a knife and are then stored whole until needed. After threshing (beating out of the seeds) and winnowing (separating off of the chaff [i.e. outer husks] using the wind), the seeds are ground between stones to produce flour or germinated to produce malt. 

Ecological relationships

Acetobacter diazotrophicus


Acid-producing, nitrogen-fixing bacteria found in roots, rhizosphere and stems.



  • van Wyk, B.-E. & Gericke, N. 2000. People's Plants. A Guide to Useful Plants of Southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.