This paper describes the objectives and methods used in a participatory breeding (PPB) project in several rice ecosystems in eastern India. Farmers were interested in a large range and combinations of traits. The selection criteria of farmers were determined by hydrological conditions (water depth) and land types (toposequence) followed by the adaptation of the variety to different user needs (food, livestock fodder, thatching, cash). Other factors determining preference were: the compatibility of the variety in the cropping systems, socioeconomic status, gender and culture. Several lessons learned from the three years' experience led to the refinements in the participatory methods in the next phase of the project.