The use of modern rice varieties in West Africa by small farmers is low. Many farmers continue to rely on the varieties they develop themselves. Therefore it is important how farmers in West Africa select and what the agronomic and physiological properties of these varieties are. The importance of the interplay between ecology and genetics is known. It is assumed that farmer varieties are also the result of an interaction with social and cultural factors. The cultivation of African rice (Oryza glaberrima), never scientifically or commercially improved, and the area of the Togo Hills, were chosen to study this last interaction within the selection and development of African and Asian rice (Oryza sativa).
The results confirm that rice cultivation in the Togo Hills is the product of ecological and social factors leading to various forms of rice cultivation and genetic variation. African rice has cultural and religious values within the commercialized agriculture of Ghana, while agronomic and culinary values are more important in the centrally planned economy of Togo. All farmers in the Togo Hills select and develop a set of different varieties that are used for multiple purposes. In West Africa such different forms and genetic variation are part of a risk spreading strategy which has produced varieties that are robust and/or versatile. These varieties are important in the quest for food security of smallholder farmers who have to work under sub-optimal conditions.