Rice is very well established in the agriculture and diets of Sierra Leone. People there consume an estimated 530,000 tonnes of rice annually, or more than 200 kg per capita. Ricelands cover some 180,000 ha and annual production is about 200,000 tonnes.
Most rice is produced in upland systems, which account for 64% of total national rice area. Inland valley swamp systems are the second major ecosystem, covering another 26%. Only a small portion, less than 5%, of the inland valley swamp rice area has been developed, permitting partial water control.
The main planting season is April-July, with harvesting between September and January. Upland rice is directly seeded in association with other crops in slash-and-burn shifting cultivation. In other ecologies, transplanting is used. Land preparation is usually done manually with hand hoes, and modern production inputs are rarely applied. As a result, the average yield is a low 1.3 tonnes/ha.
Domestic rice production has stagnated, and Sierra Leone now meets only 70% of its total requirements. As the country recovers from civil strife, sustainable rice production will depend on greater support for input supply and output marketing, and development of lowland rice production.
Jollof rice is a national dish served in nearly all ceremonies across the country - at weddings, funerals and social gatherings. It is a common dish on restaurant menus.