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Turning to agriculture to get out of the oil trap in Africa: the case of Chad

30.07.2019
From AFRIC by Yves-Daniel ADOUM
Chad is unfortunately one of the countries that have fallen into the so-called oil trap. As soon as the first oil barrels were put on the market in the early 2000s, the state coffers have improved considerably. A vast infrastructure program has been put in place giving rise to major projects. After a few years of operation, oil has gone from dream to nightmare. The many financial resources generated have not really served to develop the agricultural sector. On the contrary, the exploitation of the black gold has rather contributed to restrain Chadian agricultural sector. It destroyed the peasant agricultural production system in the area of exploitation depriving the peasants of the lands which serve as their source of daily bread.

For years, Chadians have grown up with what was repeated as a creed: “Agriculture and livestock are the two teats of the economy”. Logically, agriculture should have benefited from a little more investment with the resources generated by oil. This has unfortunately not been the case. The sector has found itself abandoned, yet it has many assets.

Main assets of Chadian agriculture

According to a study conducted by Jules DEMBA KODINDO, agronomist and economist at the University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar, before independence, agriculture fulfilled its role of producing foodstuffs and cash crops (cotton, gum Arabic etc.) for export. As such, agriculture held its first place in the Chadian economy. Its contribution to GDP formation has always been greater than 20%. The first contribution of the agricultural sector, including subsistence and commercial agriculture, livestock and hunting, fishing, and forestry is economic: it accounted for about 40% of the national GDP until 2004. It is also a large employer; which occupies 2/3 of the active population of the country of which more than half is composed of women. The second major contribution of agriculture is food production, which is an immediate response to the issues of food insecurity and particularly high poverty due to recurrent food shortages in Chad. Agriculture’s third contribution to overall growth is the supply of raw materials to the country’s agro-food industries.

General wealth

  • Only 38% of wealth production

Area

  • 39 million hectares (30% of the national territory)
  • 20 million arable land
  • 13.4 million cleared land
  • 5.6 million Irrigable lands
  • Only 2.2 million are cultivated (5.6% of cultivated land)

Main cultures

  • Cereals: sorghum, millet, maize, wheat and rice
  • Oilseeds: peanut, sesame, cowpea, chickpea, soy
  • Market gardening: tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, etc.
  • Fruits: mangoes, pineapple, papaya, guava, banana, etc.
  • Gathering: gum arabic, shea nuts, etc.
  • Industrial crops: cotton, sugar cane and tobacco

Despite all these strengths, agricultural modernization policies have so far been a failure, and the Chadian authorities readily acknowledge this. Thousands of households are still suffering from the consequences of food insecurity. For the NGOs, this failure is a consequence of the bad policy developed and a lack of global vision on the part of the authorities.

Turn to agriculture

Oil is a perishable commodity and its cost varies with market fluctuations, and current events have shown that the slightest disruption can have disastrous economic consequences. This is why we continue to believe that we must take advantage of the oil windfall to modernize agriculture and this for several advantages: food self-sufficiency, jobs, exports, sources of income etc.

In addition, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) believes that opportunities are steadily increasing in the agricultural sector, particularly because of the increasing demand for food in Africa. Experts have mentioned a 50% increase in the coming years because of the growth of the African population and rapid urbanization in particular. So we need the resource. This is why, as FAO Director Graziano da Silva said, “think beyond agricultural jobs and explore employment opportunities along the agri-food chain. In the coming years, agricultural activities and jobs in general will require more and more digital skills. Cooperatives and other forms of associations are the best way to provide family farmers and young professionals with technical assistance, access to modern technologies and help them build their capacity.”

In short, let us take advantage of oil to modernize African agriculture so as not to suffer an economic and food crisis.

Article from AFRIC editorial

Photo credit: google images/ illustration

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