Chad is an African nation located in the central part of the continent where it covers an area of roughly 496,000 square miles. Despite the presence of vast quantities of mineral resources in the country, Chad remains one of the poorest nations in the world. In 2017, its gross domestic product was the 135th highest in the world while its per capita gross domestic product was the 165th highest in the world according to data from the World Bank. The Chadian economy is reliant on natural resources such as arable land and petroleum.
In 2015, roughly 4% of Chad's total area was considered arable land. The amount of arable land in Chad has remained the same since 2011. The little arable land in Chad can be attributed to factors such as the country's climate and the political instability in the country. Although arable land only makes up a small percentage of Chad's area, agriculture is the most important economic activity in the country. The Chadian labor department estimated that in 2006, close to 80% of the nation's active labor force was employed in the agricultural sector. Some of Chad's most important crops include sugarcane, peanuts, and cotton. Chad's most productive agricultural areas are located in an area referred to as the Soudanian zone which covers roughly 10% of the country's territory. On average, each year the Soudanian zone receives approximately 29.5 to 49.2 inches of rainfall each year. One of the features of agriculture in the Soudanian zone is crop rotation. Agriculture is also practiced in the Sahelian area, a region that receives less than 22.8 inches of rainfall annually. Within the Sahelian region, farmers rely on river irrigation to support their crops with the most vital rivers being the Logone River and the Chari River.
One of Chad's most economically important crops is cotton which is native to the country's southern region. The importance of cotton to the Chadian economy dates back to the colonial era when the French colonial government encouraged the Chadian farmers to grow the crop for sale. At the time, the colonial government thought that cotton was Chad's only economically viable resource. To improve cotton growing in colonial Chad, the colonial government privatized the sector and handed it over to Cottonfran. During the post-colonial era, Chadian cotton was mainly produced in five prefectures located in the Soudanian zone. In these five prefectures, cotton was grown alongside food crops. The Chadian government was unsuccessful in its attempts to introduce cotton growing in prefectures within the Sahelian region. For most of the 1970s, Chad's annual cotton production exceeded 100,000 tons. For most of this period, roughly 1062 square miles of land was dedicated to growing cotton. The biggest challenges that faced the Chadian cotton industry during the 20th century included the country's political instability due to the civil war and fluctuation in global cotton prices. The Chadian government has sought the assistance of foreign nations such as the Netherlands and France to revive the country's cotton industry.
One of Chad's essential food crops is sorghum which is grown in all the regions of the country. Sorghum in Chad has a variety of uses with the most important being that it is used as a primary food source by most of the Chadian people. Chadian sorghum is also used in the brewing of alcohol and also animal feeds. In 2011, Chad was among the world's top 20 sorghum producing nations. During this period, roughly 3061 square miles of land was dedicated to growing sorghum, and the country produced approximately 2,124 tons of sorghum per square mile. Chad's total sorghum production in 2011 was roughly 1.1% of the global sorghum production.
During the late 1980s, Chadian farmers grew wheat in regions referred to as polders which were situated around Lake Chad. Chadian farmers also planted wheat in the country's northern edges particularly close to the oases. For most of the late 1980s, wheat was not an important crop to the Chadian people. The Chadian government tried to implement an ambitious policy to increase the cultivation of wheat in the country; however, the policy was unsuccessful mainly due to the country's political instability.
For much of the post-colonial era, livestock keeping has been one of the major economic activities in Chad. According to the Chadian government, close to 33% of the Chadian people were involved in livestock keeping. Some of the livestock kept by the Chadian people included cattle, sheep, and goats. Most of the country's livestock was kept in the Sahelian region. It was estimated that during the 1980s, Chadian livestock farmers had roughly 4 million cattle, 500,000 camels and close to 5 million goats and sheep. Chadian farmers also kept buffaloes to plow the country's cotton fields. During the 1960s and the 1970s, livestock exports in Chad accounted for close to 25% of the country's total exports. Chadian livestock farmers sell their cattle to some nations such as Cameroon and Nigeria. The major challenge facing the Chadian livestock industry is the constant droughts, diseases, and Chad's political instability. During periods of severe droughts, Chadian livestock farmers in the Sahelian region move their livestock to the Soudanian zone in search of water and pastures. In some cases, Chadian livestock farmers have been known to cross the border into the Central African Republic in search of water and pastures. The Chadian government has invested huge sums of money in training veterinary doctors to ensure the country's livestock produce better yields.
Chad has massive reserves of oil which it exploits for its economic benefit. Most of the crude oil in Chad is extracted from the southern region of the country from a region referred to as the Doha Basin. Oil industry experts estimate that Chad could have as many as one billion barrels of oil within its borders. The oil reserves in Chad are mainly exploited by foreign companies with the major players in Chad's oil sector being Royal Dutch and Exxon Mobil.
Challenges Facing The Chadian Economy
The Chadian economy faces numerous challenges with the most significant ones being the country's corruption and mismanagement of natural resources. The challenges have significantly hampered the growth of the Chadian economy.