The Upland Nerica-1 variety is popular in Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria.
Photo: AfricaRice/ Rama Raman

05.07.2019

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The organisation AfricaRice has committed itself to supporting African countries in their efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in the rice sector. In 1992, the organisation started working on interspecific hybridisation to develop varieties that combine the high yield potential of Asian rice with the local adaptation of African rice. In order to optimally consider the needs of smallholder farmers, a participatory approach was chosen for varietal selection. The farmers are also trained in seed production.

Africa is the only continent where the world’s two species of cultivated rice are grown: Asian rice (Oryza sativa) and African rice (O. glaberrima). While Asian rice is cultivated universally, African rice is unique to ­Africa. An international study published in 2018 led by the French Research Institute for Development (IRD), and co-authored by the Africa Rice Centre (AfricaRice) among others, revealed that the African rice was domesticated over 3,000 years ago in the Inner Niger Delta in northern Mali. Asian rice was introduced in East Africa over 1,000 years ago, and about 450 years ago, it reached West ­Africa. It quickly became popular because of its high yield potential and has largely displaced ­African rice in the region, which is relatively low-yielding, because it is prone to lodging and shattering. According to a study by Olga F. Linares, published in 2002, isolated pockets of O. glaberrima cultivation remain in Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and in the Casamance region of southern Senegal.

A genetic goldmine

African rice is still grown in these areas for ceremonial and cultural values and appreciated for its taste and nutritional qualities.

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