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Rice in Africa

Consumption of rice is increasing more rapidly than any other staple in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2018, imports in the region amounted to US$6.4 billion per year. It is expected to double in the next decade, surpassing Asia and making Africa the largest rice importer in the world by 2030.

Only 12 million hectares of the continent's 230 million hectares are considered suitable and are currently being used for rice production. 

Rice production increased from 13.7 to 27.9 metric tonnes (103%) from 2008 to 2018. It is a stark contrast from the previous decade’s increase of 31%.

Yields also increased but are still less than half the world average, at approximately 2 tonnes/ha. The global average is about 4.66 tonnes/ha.

There is an urgent need to accelerate sustainable rice systems, and governments are now prioritizing self-sufficient rice production to reduce the cost of imports and develop sustainable national rice sectors.

Countries where IRRI is active


Rice has emerged as an important food staple in Burundi. The estimated land area currently used for rice production is about 50,000 hectares. Between 1984 and 2011, rice production increased from 18,000 to 75,000 metric tons annually—a 316% increase in 27 years. Read more


In 1907, rice became Kenya's third most important crop, after wheat and maize. Due to the change in Kenyans' eating habits, particularly in urban areas, the country's annual rice consumption is increasing by over 12%. With a projected population growth rate of 2.7% annually, the estimated annual national need can reach 1,290,000 tonnes by 2030. Read more


Rice is one of the major food crops in Mozambique, along with maize, wheat, and sorghum. However, rice consumption has increased rapidly in recent years, with an annual growth rate of 8.6%. Like in other African countries, the shift in consumer preference for rice is attributed to urbanization, better income, and food preparation convenience. Read more


In Tanzania, rice is the second most important food and commercial crop after maize. It is of significant national importance as a source of employment, income, and food security for millions of rural households. Read more

Examples of successes

Stress Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA)

  • Produced and distributed over 1 million tonnes of seeds, reaching 35 million farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
  • Over 200 rice varieties disseminated in 18 Sub-Saharan African and three South Asian countries.
  • Improved rice varieties adopted on over 3.5 million hectares in 16 Sub-Saharan African and 3 South Asian countries, lifting 7.2 million people from food insecurity.


Green Super Rice

  • 42 varieties were developed and made available in 11 countries in Asia and Africa, covering more than 1.7 million hectares of farmland. Eighteen of these varieties were bred at IRRI.
  • Since 2011, 43 high-yielding, climate-resilient varieties with good grain quality have been released in East and Southern Africa.


Developed flood-tolerant varieties that survive two weeks of complete submersion

  • Doubled the yield.
  • Added $700 /ha to farmers’ incomes.
  • Potential to generate ~US$33 billion in returns for countries that experience flooding in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Transformative solutions

IRRI can bring multidisciplinary expertise to many areas of agricultural science. Some of the biggest transformative solutions include:

Advance multi-trait varities

Through a breeding hub in Burundi and multi-site testing in different African countries, we have developed varieties that have high yield and good grain quality for:

  • Climate change resilience
  • Flood, drought, and salt tolerance
  • Pest and disease resistance
  • High grain zinc
  • And all with high yield and grain quality.


Combined agronomic practices and capacity building

IRRI, with its partners, implemented effective seed system models through a range of approaches and partnerships.


Direct Seeded Rice (DSR) & Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD)

Both technologies significantly reduce water use, labor requirements, farming costs, and GHG emissions. Solutions include:

  • Varieties bred for DSR
  • Complimentary agronomic practices for DSR and AWD
  • Mechanization
  • Capacity building


Healthy and nutritious rice

High zinc varieties have been released and mainstreamed in all IRRI breeding pipelines. Ongoing initiatives include producing low—and ultra-low-GI rice and varieties with high-protein traits.


United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that can be addressed through rice based systems include:

Together we can do more

Dr. Abdelbagi Ismail 
Regional Director for Africa


IRRI aligns its research programs with the needs and requests of the national systems.

We work closely with national, regional, and other international organizations across Africa, including fellow CGIAR centers AfricaRice and Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), governments, universities, private industry, and non-profit organizations.


  • Ministry of Agriculture
  • Livestock Fisheries and Cooperatives
  • Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation
  • National Irrigation Authority
  • University of Nairobi
  • University of Eldoret
  • Nabwabini Environmental Health Care Intervention Programme
  • Local Development Research Institute
  • Mwea Rice Growers Multipurpose Co-op. Society Ltd 
  • Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service


  • National Agricultural Research Organization
  • National Crops Resources Research Institute
  • Makerere University


  • Ministry of Agriculture
  • Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute
  • Sokoine University of Agriculture
  • Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute
  • Agricultural Seed Agency
  • Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania
  • Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute
  • Japan International Cooperation Agency (Tanzania Office)
  • Kilimanjaro Agricultural Training Centre
  • Ministry of Water
  • Lower Moshi Irrigation Scheme
  • Dakawa Irrigators Cooperative Union (Ushirika wa Wakulima. Wadogo Wadogo Kilimo cha Umwagiliaji Dakawa/UWAWAKUDA)
  • Mwamapuli irrigation Scheme
  • Madibira
  • Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Society
  • World Vision Tanzania
  • Kilimo Trust Tanzania
  • Nafaka Kilimo


  • Ministry of Environment
  • Agriculture and Livestock
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation
  • Ministry of National Education and Scientific Research
  • Ministry of National Solidarity, Social Affairs, Human Rights and Gender
  • University of Ngozi
  • University of Burundi
  • National Office for Seed Control and Certification (Office National de Contrôle et de Certification des Semences/ONCCS)
  • Regional Society for Imbo Development (Société Régionale de Développement de l'Imbo/SRDI)
  • Organo-Mineral Fertilizers Industries (Fertilisants Organo-Minéraux Industrie/FOMI)
  • Confederation of Agricultural Producers Associations for Development (Collectif Des Association Paysannes Pour L'auto Développement/CAPAD)
  • EFAMEC (Etablissement et Fabrication Mecanique)


  • Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
  • Institute for Agricultural Research of Mozambique
  • Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education
  • Regadio do Baixo Limpopo (RBL)
  • Hidráulica de Chókwè Empresa Pública (HICEP)
  • Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM)
  • Universidade Lúrio
  • Gapi Sociedade de Investimentos (GAPI)
  • Empresa Orizicola de Zambezia (EOZ)
  • African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership
  • Food and Agriculture Organization
  • Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

Key international partners include AfricaRice, the Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), other CGIAR centers, and more.

Read the IRRI in Africa Annual Report