Some farmers in difficult environments continue to grow it in preference to the higher-yielding Asian rice because it is much better adapted to various local stresses. The hardiness of African rice results from its strong ability to compete with weeds and to withstand rice pests and diseases, drought, flood, infertile soils, iron toxicity and severe climates. This ability makes it an especially useful genetic resource for developing stress-tolerant rice varieties for rainfed ecosystems in Africa.

In contrast to Asia, most rice in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is grown under rainfed conditions, where production is risky. About 33 per cent of land under rice cultivation in SSA represents the rainfed upland ecology, and 40 per cent belongs to the rainfed lowland ecology. Many of the poorest rice farmers depend on the upland ecosystem, where rice is grown without standing water and yield is very low.

In its work, AfricaRice, which has a pan-African mandate to develop the rice sector, has focused more on the resource-poor rainfed rice farmers, who had not benefited from previous research work to the same degree as those in more favourable rice-growing ecologies.