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Genetic Diversity and Improvement Program

Program 1: Genetic Diversity and Improvement (GDI) Program


The turnover rate of rice varieties remains relatively low and older low-yielding varieties still dominate in large areas of Africa. Farmers are not benefiting quickly enough from genetic gains from recently improved varieties that are resilient to abiotic and biotic stresses, including those that can withstand heat, cold, drought, and flood that are forecast to become more frequent and intense with climate change.


The GDI program is responsible for rice germplasm collection, storage, characterization, and improvement. It covers the area ‘from gene to plant’ and aims to enhance genetic diversity and develop improved rice varieties with consumer preferences and tolerances/resistances to abiotic and biotic stresses, using conventional breeding, double haploid breeding, marker-assisted selection (MAS) and genomic selection (GS).


The program exploits the rich reservoir of genetic resources present in the indigenous germplasm pool of African rice Oryza glaberrima, its wild relatives – O. barthii and O. longistaminata – and O. sativa. The program aims to deploy modern breeding approaches to shorten breeding cycles and to increase genetic gains in developing products of market demand.



To provide farmers with superior and market-demanded germplasm, adapted to local growing conditions.



  • Rice Biodiversity Center for Africa (RCBA)

  • Development and testing of new rice varieties adapted to irrigated lowland, rainfed lowland, rainfed upland and mangrove swamp ecologies;

  • Gene (QTL) discovery, marker development, and their usage in breeding; and

  • Genotyping for forward breeding and profiling

  • Capacity development


  • Enhanced genetic diversity generated

  • Improved and stable rice lines and varieties with good grain quality available

  • Enhanced knowledge of G x E interactions for abiotic and biotic stresses available

  • Enhanced involvement of NARS and farmers in rice genetic resources development established

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