The genebank of AfricaRice was in Cotonou, Benin, where the centre had a temporary headquarters until late 2015. The genebank moved back to M'be in 2018 as part of AfricaRice's return to its permanent headquarters in Cote d'Ivoire. The collection contains more than 21,000 accessions, the majority of them (78%) Oryza sativa, Asian rice. Accessions of the African species O. glaberrima, however, which form 17% of the collections, are crucial to the breeding of varieties able to perform well under the conditions of sub-Saharan Africa.
AfricaRice has distributed about 66,000 samples over the past five years.
About 60% of the accessions are traditional cultivars or landraces, and just under 40% are breeding and research lines. The remainder are mostly wild species.
The base collection is in medium-term storage at 5-10°C. In addition, AfricaRice has two safety duplicates in long term storage at around -20°C, at Fort Collins, USA, and in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. About 40% of the collection is safety duplicated.
The genebank, with its wide range of rice diversity, was a crucial element in the development of the very successful Nerica varieties. Much of the research at AfricaRice is focused on screening accessions for their ability to tolerate stresses such as heat and drought and pests and diseases, all of which are expected to increase under climate change.
AfricaRice is spearheading regional characterisation and evaluation efforts throughout sub-Saharan Africa, working with 35 national programmes. Other work includes the restoration of lost germplasm after civil strife, provision of conservation services to NARS, and training and capacity building.
The AfricaRice Genebank Information System (ARGIS) holds information on more than 19,000 accessions and is publicly available.