Developing and maintaining water control in paddy fields is difficult, costly and requires sufficient water reserves. Thus, even in the main rice growing area of Madagascar, the Alaotra lake region (800 metres above sea level), only 30 000 ha of paddy fields can be properly irrigated when over 70 000 ha will remain under poor water control. In these fields, traditional techniques based on irrigated cropping practices are very unreliable: late transplanting (which can be done only when sufficient water is available) and occurence of dry conditions at the end of the plant cycle lead to usually low yields (0.8 to 1 t/ha on average) and production is very unreliable (from nil, during the dry years to 3t/ha when rains are favourable), which makes crop intensification very hazardous. For such situations, a change in paradigm is proposed: abandoning irrigated practice and making the choice of growing upland or ",poly-aptitude", rice varieties (SEBOTA) with agro-ecological practices adapted to the specific field water regime.