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Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I, Grains
a subsistence crop. The upland varieties are notably useful in shifting agriculture. They also have a place in crop rotations because their root systems and susceptibility to soilborne diseases differ from those of the major crops. Planting them for a season or so tends to "sanitize" the site.
For lands beyond Africa, prospects are slight. There, African rice offers few benefits over the Asian species and may not adapt well.5 Although it might have a future as a small specialty crop, more likely it will become an accursed weed, especially in rice fields.
African rice can be used for all the same purposes as Asian rice. It is thus extremely versatile. There are, however, some specialized local uses. West Africa's Mandingo and Susu people, for instance, use rice flour and honey to make a sweet-tasting bread, so special that it is the centerpiece of ceremonial rituals. Rice beer is popular throughout West Africa, and in Nigeria a special beer (called betso or buza) is made from rice and honey. Also, in Ivory Coast there is a project to use African rice as a component of baby foods.
Both rices are principally carbohydrate sources. However, in practice African rice's nutritional quality is greater than that of Asian rice.6 This seems to be not because of any inherent difference but because it is more difficult to polish. Asian rice is invariably polished to a greater degree, and therefore more of its nutrients (especially the important vitamin, thiamine) are lost.
As with Asian rice, African rice is grown in three major ways: dryland (or upland), paddy, and "floating."
For instance, one reason why African rice is not better known internationally is that it grows poorly in the Philippines, where the world's major rice-research facility is located. This is not a measure of inferiority—just a lack of adaptation to the local conditions, especially to viral diseases.
Information from the Food and Nutrition Board, Food Research Institute, Ghana.