Drought is the primary cause of yield loss in agriculture throughout the world, and is currently the most common reason for global food shortages. Three-quarter of the most severe droughts in the last ten years have been in Africa, the continent which already has the lowest level of crop production and drought adaptive capacity. The increased incidences of drought and erratic rainfall have thrown small holder farmers in Africa into deep poverty, hunger and malnutrition. In this paper, the drought situation in sub-Saharan Africa and its impact on rice production was reviewed. Rice is particularly vulnerable to droughts as it has higher water requirement as compared to other crops. The review has also highlighted physiological and molecular plant responses to drought, with special focus on effects of drought stress on rice grain yield and other related-traits. With climate change predicted to exacerbate the problem of water security in Africa, it is imperative that we develop robust, well-planned and informed strategies to mitigate against drought. Various drought mitigation strategies including breeding for drought tolerance and water harvesting and conservation techniques are also outlined. In order to adapt to drought, there is need for a broad based approach that includes development of appropriate policies, putting in place necessary water related investments and institutions as well as capacity building at various levels.
Key words: Drought, tolerance, rice, sub-Saharan Africa, quantitative trait loci (QTL), mitigation, adaptation.
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