Agriculture in Chad
Chad is located in the north-central part of the Africa. It is a landlocked country, sharing borders with Libya, Sudan, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger. Chad is the fifth largest country in Africa in terms of landmass. Three climate regions make up the majority of the country—a desert region in the north, an arid region in the centre, and a tropical area in the south. Lake Chad is located on the western border and is an important source of water for Chad and surrounding countries. The northern part of Chad has an arid desert climate, receiving very little rainfall over the course of the year. Rainfall increases in the southern part of the country, with a wet season from May to October. In the south, the wettest months of July and August usually see 10 or more days of rainfall per month. In the south, temperatures are highest in April, right before the rainy season. During this month, temperature can range from about 40°C during the day to 25°C at night.
Several types of soil formation occur in Chad, apart from the sand of the desert zone and the sheer rock of the mountainous areas. On the south side of Lake Chad the soils are derived from clayey deposits that accumulated on the floor of Mega-Chad. Along the seasonally flooded banks of the Chari and Logone rivers and the Salamat Wadi, hydromorphic (waterlogged) soils occur. Tropical iron-bearing soils, red in colour, are found on the exposed folds and mounds of the Ouaddaï region’s upland slopes. Both temperature increases and variable rainfall make harvest rates low and unpredictable; and, therefore, require the local population to stabilize household incomes in other ways – notably through labour migration and day labour. By most estimates, 80 percent of Chad’s population relies on agriculture, livestock, or fishing. The market is primarily domestic, and Chad imports a significant number of foodstuffs from Cameroon. There is little value-added production of agricultural products. Chad’s primary agricultural exports include gum arabic, sesame, and cotton. Chad exported USD 33.8 million of sesame seeds and USD 21.5 million of gum Arabic in 2019, according to the International Trade Centre. Other potential export crops include peanuts, shea butter, hibiscus, cashews, dates, moringa, and spirulina.
The crop production in Chad can initially be separated between food crops and cash crops. The main food crops are millet, sorghum, rice, maize, and wheat, while the main cash crops are cotton, sugarcane, peanuts, and sesame.
The main activity of farmers in Chad is the production of food cereals (millet, rain-fed sorghum and flood recession farmed white sorghum). These are mainly rain-fed crops that are be exposed to more frequent droughts and flooding with drastic impacts on the livelihoods of smallholders and their food security. The cropping cycle for most of the Sahel is similar to that in the East Sudanian savanna, although the variety of crops planted is more limited because of dryness. In the polders of Lake Chad, farmers grow a wide range of crops; two harvests per year for corn, sorghum, and legumes are possible from February or March to September. Rice ripens in February, and wheat ripens in May.
Chad is one of the world’s largest suppliers of sesame seed. White and black sesame seeds are grown in southern and central Chad. Other foods, e.g. mangos, cashews, peanuts, and dates, are widely grown in Chad but are not packaged, processed, or exported.
Chad is a leading producer of livestock on the continent. Chad refers to itself as a livestock country “par excellence” and is the fourth largest African producer of livestock (defined as camels, cattle, goats, sheep, and pigs). Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated Chad possessed 107 million heads of livestock in 2018: 37 million goats, 31 million sheep, 29 million cattle, and 8 million camels. Chad has relatively small populations of pigs and chickens, ranking 27th and 35th out of 54 African countries, respectively.
Pastoralism concerns a full 80% of the national herd. Through its mobility-based practices, it contributes to the development of forgotten or lightly populated territories. The pastoral system also plays a key role in feeding the population through the supply of milk and meat and in agricultural production through the provision of manure and animal traction. It helps to generate currency through the export of live cattle and products, such as leather and hides. Despite a massive livestock population, Chad currently has no functional industrial abattoirs (slaughterhouses) and makes limited use of valued-added animal products such as leather and buttons due to limited electricity and poor infrastructure. Livestock, including cattle, camels, and goats, present manifold opportunities for investment, particularly construction of feedlots and slaughterhouses, including smaller mobile facilities. Chad has a rich biodiversity, including non-timber forest products. The identified products include shea nuts, honey, fruits from the soap nut tree, moringa leaves, neem oil and its derivatives, fruits from the tamarind tree and other medicinal plants. Forests cover roughly a quarter of Chad’s land area and are mostly located in the southern Soudan region. Chad has about 593,000 hectares of classified forests, and about 15,000 hectares that have been reforested.
Lake Chad remains an important feature of the region’s hydrology, with most rivers in Chad acting as tributaries to the lake. For adjacent areas, the lake serves as an important source for irrigation (mostly small-scale farming) and fishing. Lake Chad, with its two major rivers and many runoff zones, was ranked high among Africa's producers of inland freshwater fish in the 1970s. With the drought and diversion of the waters of some rivers, however, production declined. A large share of the commerce in preserved fish was carried on with markets in Cameroon and Nigeria. Small dried or salted fish called salanga were most popular on the markets of Cameroon. Larger smoked fish called banda were generally exported to the major Nigerian market of Maiduguri.