The study sought to determine beliefs and practices about neglected crops in West Africa, using fonio ( Digitaria exilis
) as a model to understand how obstacles impede the consumption of this cereal in Bamako, the capital city of Mali. This was a cross-sectional study on food ethnography in three steps: a market survey on availability of fonio, a food consumption survey on utilisation of fonio, and on beliefs on and attributes of fonio. The study covered the pre-harvest and post-harvest periods and involved key informants, food vendors, and women of reproductive age in households. Fonio, as all cereals, is available year-long on markets in Bamako, and is abundant from September to May before most of the common cereals mature. More than two-thirds (68%) of the women reported having consumed fonio one to three times a month. Fonio was more consumed as snack (djouka) on working days (62%) than on weekend and special event days, suggesting that encouraging the development of ready-to-serve fonio-based products would help increase the consumption of fonio among women in urban area. The average individual portion size of fonio was 152 g/day, and the contribution to daily energy intake was 16%. A large share of the women was convinced that eating fonio was good for them (95%) and their family members (94%). Also, most of them thought that fonio had good cooking, organoleptic and nutritional qualities and could contribute to diet’s variation (91% to 100%). Decision by the women to purchase or prepare fonio in the household could be favourably influenced by factors such as media, household members suffering from anaemia, neighbouring people buying fonio and shortage of other cereals; whereas shortage of fonio products (77%), high cost of fonio products (69%), difficult cooking process (51%), and lack of knowledge about processing and cooking fonio (43%) were likely to limit fonio consumption among the women. Also, in the present study, fonio was perceived to be for rich people by more than half (58%) of the women. Improving cooking process and knowledge of the women about fonio cooking, as well as creating a demand for the women with the household’s head and others through media, social and health care services would help increase fonio consumption in Bamako.