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Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice)
Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice)


Numerous conventional breeding efforts have been made to improve the performance of upland rice for use in African farming systems. These efforts have been limited in their success, partly because the Asian rice (Oryza sativa) varieties that are generally grown, lacks the resistance or tolerance to many of the typical African stresses.

In 1992 the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) and its partners started work on interspecific hybridization in an attempt to combine the useful traits of both cultivated rice species (O. sativa and O. glaberrima).

Crossing both species is complicated by incompatibility that causes hybrid mortality, hindering heterogenic recombination and progeny sterility. Through back-crossings with the O. sativa parent coupled with anther culture, this problem was overcome.

The result was the first interspecific rice progenies from cultivated varieties. With the support of visionary donors, notably CGIAR, Gatsby Foundation, IFAD, Japan, Rockefeller Foundation, UNDP and World Bank and in collaboration with numerous partners, AfricaRice developed interspecific lines with desirable traits tailored to African conditions.

In 1999 the interspecific lines were named New Rice for Africa (NERICA) and one year later, AfricaRice received the prestigious CGIAR King Baudouin Award for the NERICA breakthrough. This award was followed by the World Food Prize awarded to former AfricaRice scientist Dr Monty Jones (2004) in recognition of his leading role in the development of upland NERICA lines.

Seven NERICA varieties (NERICA 1 – 7), which were popular among farmers, were named in 2000 by AfricaRice. In 2005, 11 more NERICA varieties were named by AfricaRice Variety Nomination Committee, based on their excellent performance and popularity among farmers. This brings the total number of upland NERICA varieties characterized and named by the Center to 18, including the original seven NERICAs. All these 18 NERICA varieties are suitable for the upland rice ecology of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). From the breeders’ point of view, a notable feature of the new NERICA varieties is that unlike the first set of seven NERICA's, which were derived from a single series of crosses, the new ones are products of three series of crosses, using the same O. glaberrima parent but different O. sativa parents

Some of the NERICA varieties have a yield advantage over their O. glaberrima and O. sativa parents, either through superior weed competitiveness, drought tolerance, and pest or disease resistance or simply through higher yielding potentials. In addition, the grain quality of some of the NERICAs is often better than that of their parents. For instance, the protein content of some of the NERICAs is 25% higher than that of the Asian rice in the market. All these advantages combined can significantly contribute to food security and improved nutrition in SSA.

To date NERICA is considered one of the major advances in the field of rice varietal improvement of the past decades.

Facts and Figures on Upland NERICA

  • Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) scientists in association with their partners were able to successfully cross two species of cultivated rice—Oryza sativa (Asian rice) and O. glaberrima (African rice). This is a formidable scientific challenge because the two species have evolved separately over millennia and are so different that many previous attempts did not lead to reliable variety development. Using conventional and molecular biology techniques, the scientists overcame hybrid sterility—the main problem in crossing the species. This also allowed them to accelerate the breeding process from 5–7 years to 2 years or less. The fruit of this effort was the New Rice for Africa (NERICA), which presents several advantages over traditional varieties.

  • NERICA is not just one variety; several hundred family lines have been generated. The development of NERICA varieties for various rice ecologies is a significant international public good.

  • NERICA lines had been tested in 31 SSA countries. Farmers were exposed to NERICA varieties through the use of Participatory Varietal Selection (PVS) and Community-Based Seed Systems (CBSS).

  • During the period 2000–2006, AfricaRice designated 18 upland NERICA and 60 lowland NERICA-L varieties. More than 1.4 million ha are under upland NERICA production in Africa ((Arouna et al. 2017).

  • NERICAs have brought specific benefits to African rice growers, in particular shorter growth duration and tolerance to specific biotic and abiotic stresses, while giving them yield that is generally as good as the high-yield potential O. sativa varieties.

  • A study (Arouna et al. 2017) has shown that about 8 million people were lifted out of poverty and 7.2 million people out of food insecurity thanks to the adoption of improved rice varieties, including NERICA, which brought hope to millions of poor small-scale farmers in Africa by reducing poverty and income inequality. The impact of NERICA adoption on poverty reduction has been well documented in Benin and Uganda.

Local Names of Upland NERICA

Côte d’Ivoire

  • Bonfani (perfumed high-quality rice)

  • Dususuma malo (rice of hope)


In Guinea, NERICA has several names. In general it’s called “Riz ADRAO”.

In one part of Guinea, its local name means "Mother can no longer refuse her children."  Elsewhere, its name means, "I will no longer have to sell my best goat."

Upland NERICA Pedigree Names





WAB 450-IBP-38-HB

WAB 56-104 / CG 14//2*WAB 56-104


WAB 450-1-1-P31-1-HB

WAB 56-104 / CG 14//2*WAB 56-104


WAB 450-IBP-28-HB

WAB 56-104 / CG 14//2*WAB 56-104


WAB 450-IBP-91-HB

WAB 56-104 / CG 14//2*WAB 56-104


WAB 450-11-1-1-P24-HB

WAB 56-104 / CG 14//2*WAB 56-104


WAB 450-IBP-160-HB

WAB 56-104 / CG 14//2*WAB 56-104


WAB 450-IBP-20-HB

WAB 56-104 / CG 14//2*WAB 56-104


WAB 450-1-BL1-136-HB

WAB 56-104 / CG 14//2*WAB 56-104


WAB 450-BL1-136-HB

WAB 56-104 / CG 14//2*WAB 56-104


WAB 450-11-1-1-P41-HB

WAB 56-104 / CG 14//2*WAB 56-104


WAB 450-16-2-BL2-DV1

WAB 56-104 / CG 14//2*WAB 56-104


WAB 880-1-38-20-17-P1-HB

WAB 56-50 / CG 14//2*WAB 56-50


WAB 880-1-38-20-28-P1-HB

WAB 56-50 / CG 14//2*WAB 56-50


WAB 880-1-32-1-2-P1-HB

WAB 56-50 / CG 14//2*WAB 56-50


WAB 881-10-37-18-3-P1-HB

CG 14 / WAB 181-18//2*WAB 181-18


WAB 881-10-37-18-9-P1-HB

CG 14 / WAB 181-18//2*WAB 181-18


WAB 881-10-37-18-13-P1-HB

CG 14 / WAB 181-18//2*WAB 181-18


WAB 881-10-37-18-12-P3-HB

CG 14 / WAB 181-18//2*WAB 181-18

*IBP: Interbreeding population, HB: High input homogeneous bulk, P: Panicle selection, BL: Blast, DV: Drought at vegetative phase.

Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice)



AfricaRice is a CGIAR Research Center –
part of a global research partnership
for a food-secure future.
It is also an intergovernmental association of
African member countries.


AfricaRice Headquarters
01 BP 4029, Abidjan 01, Côte d'Ivoire
T: +225 22 48 09 10; F: +225 22 44 26 29

M’bé Research Station
01 B.P. 2551, Bouaké 01, Côte d'Ivoire
T: +225 22 48 09 20; F: +225 31 63 25 78

E: AfricaRice@cgiar.org


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