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Maintaining or Abandoning African Rice: Lessons for Understanding Processes of Seed Innovation


Rice breeding and crop research predominantly emphasize adaptation to ecological conditions. Based on qualitative and quantitative research conducted between 2000 and 2012 we show how ecological factors, combined with socioeconomic variables, cultural norms and values, shape the use and development of local technologies related to the cultivation of African rice (Oryza glaberrima Steud.) in seven West African countries (Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Sierra Leone, The Gambia and Togo). In this region the role of African rice is diverse across ethnic groups. Findings suggest that farmers, through various pathways, are active in the development of promising new varieties based on genetic resources of Asian rice, African rice, or both, as well as in the adoption of modern varieties. These findings require further research into interactions among ecological, genetic, socioeconomic and cultural factors within farmers’ innovation systems and recognition of emergent knowledge and technologies resulting from such interactions.

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  1. Researchers from the University of Reading, England were mentioned several times (see Dorward et al. 2007).

  2. The black husk African rice varieties are reported by Jola and Balanta farmers as being adventitious plants that appeared in the white husks varieties’ fields and that afterwards were selected and propagated.

  3. This history contradicts Portères’ (1962) version of a domestication center in the inland delta of the Niger and two secondary centers of diversification.

  4. A set of varieties produced by AfricaRice by crossbreeding African and Asian rice.


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We thank Paul Van Mele, Kwame Offei and Harro Maat for their advice and suggestions when developing the research methodology and at various stages during the fieldwork. This research was mainly supported by NWO-WOTRO (Science for Global Development, part of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research), with additional support from CSG (Centre for Society and Genomics), NUFFIC (Netherlands Organization for International Cooperation in Higher Education) and AfricaRice (Africa Rice Center). Marina Temudo’s research in Guinea-Bissau was conducted under de framework of several consecutive projects (PRAXIS/P/SOC/1110/1998; PPCDT/BIABDE/ 57965/2004; Carboveg-GB; PTDC/AFR/111546/2009).

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Correspondence to Marina Padrão Temudo.

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Teeken, B., Nuijten, E., Temudo, M.P. et al. Maintaining or Abandoning African Rice: Lessons for Understanding Processes of Seed Innovation. Hum Ecol 40, 879–892 (2012).

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  • Oryza glaberrima
  • West Africa
  • Technology development
  • Farmer interspecific rice hybrids