About  |   Contact  |  Mongabay on Facebook  |  Mongabay on Twitter  |  Subscribe
Rainforests | Tropical fish | Environmental news | For kids | Madagascar | Photos


Chad - The Economy

WHEN FRANCE GRANTED INDEPENDENCE to Chad in 1960, it left the new government with an essentially traditional economy, having a small industrial sector, an agricultural sector dominated by cotton, and an inadequate transportation sector. Moreover, the country had few trained technicians or capable administrators. In spite of wellintentioned efforts by a series of civilian and military governments, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the combination of prolonged civil strife, chronic drought, and political uncertainty aborted most progress.

By the late 1980s, even though there had been a lull in the fighting, better rains, and a modicum of political stability, Chad was still one of the poorest countries on earth and one of the least endowed with resources. The economy had not improved appreciably since independence and, by some measurements, was probably worse than in 1960. Reliant on foreign aid and vulnerable to the uncontrollable forces of the international cotton market, Chad could hope to make only incremental gains in its quest to achieve a viable, self-sustaining economy.


Chad's remoteness, its inadequate infrastructure, its recent history of war, drought, and famine, and its dependency on a single cash crop--cotton--for export earnings made it one of the poorest nations of the world. In the mid-1980s, Chad's gross national product per capita was only US$160, which clearly reflected the extent of the nation's impoverishment. In the mid-1980s, Chad ranked among the five poorest nations of the world according to World Bank statistics.

Chad's economy was based almost entirely on agriculture and pastoralism. In 1986 the World Bank estimated that approximately 83 percent of the country's economically active population worked in agriculture, 5 percent worked in industry, and 12 percent were engaged in services, including government employment, trade, and other service activities. Cotton processing, which includes ginning raw cotton into fiber for export, some spinning and weaving, and producting edible oil from cotton seed for local consumption, dominated industry.

Figures for the gross domestic product (GDP) also reflected agriculture's importance. In 1986 the World Bank estimated that 46.3 percent of Chad's GDP came from agriculture and pastoralism. Industry and manufacturing accounted for only 17.9 percent of GDP, while services represented 35.7 percent of GDP.

Geography and climate played an influential role in Chad's economy. The country is divided into three major climatic zones-- Saharan, sahelian, and soudanian--which are distinguished by the level of annual average rainfall. There are only two productive zones--the soudanian cotton-producing zone of the south, sometimes called Le Tchad Utile (Useful Chad), and the central sahelian cattle-herding region. The northern Saharan region produces little.

In 1987 Chad's economy was dependent on a single cash crop-- cotton. Like most other single-crop economies in the Third World, when world commodity prices were high, conditions improved. When those prices fell, conditions worsened. Despite several important swings, during the 1970s and particularly in the early 1980s, cotton prices were good. Chad's cotton revenues peaked in 1983 and 1984, but in 1985 world cotton prices fell steeply, nearly crippling the cotton industry. This decline forced a major economic restructuring under the auspices of the World Bank and foreign donors. To revive the cotton industry, a 1986 restructuring program curtailed all cotton-derived revenues to the government until world prices rebounded. This program forced cutbacks on the production of raw cotton and limited the level of government support to producers for improved cropping methods, ginning, and other related industrial operations.

Cattle and beef exports followed cotton in economic importance. Estimates of the value of these exports varied greatly because large numbers of livestock left the country "on the hoof," totally outside the control of customs officials. Nevertheless, cattle and beef exports accounted for 30 to 60 percent of all exports from 1975 through 1985, depending on the value of the cotton crop in a given year. Approximately 29 percent of Chadians depended almost entirely on livestock for their livelihood in the early 1980s, and livestock and their by-products represented around 26 percent of GNP.

Chad's lack of resources limited the exploitation of mineral deposits. There were known deposits of bauxite in the southern regions, and reports indicated deposits of uranium and some other minerals in the Tibesti Mountains and Aozou Strip. Even in late 1987, however, no bauxite was being mined, and because of hostilities in the northern zones, claims of mineral deposits there had not been verified. Chad's only mining industry was the traditional exploitation of sodium carbonate (natron) in dried beds around Lake Chad.

Oil offered one of the few reasons for economic optimism. In 1974 a consortium of companies led by Conoco discovered oil near Rig Rig, north of Lake Chad. Plans to exploit these reserves, estimated at 438 million barrels, and to build a small refinery to serve Chad's domestic needs were delayed in the late 1970s and early 1980s because of The Chadian Civil War. In 1986 the government--with World Bank support--revived the idea, and plans called for operations to begin in the early 1990s. Nonetheless, these deposits would ensure only Chad's domestic needs, and no oil would be exported. In 1985 Exxon, which had become the leader of the exploratory consortium, discovered oil in southern Chad, near Doba. The size of the reserves was not known, although it was believed to be large. Exxon, however, suspended drilling in 1986 when world oil prices fell.

Remoteness and distance are prime features of economic life in Chad. Transportation and communications are difficult, both internally and externally. Douala, Cameroon, the nearest port from N'Djamena, is 1,700 kilometers away. By the mid-1980s, the only paved roads linking the capital to the interior, some 250 kilometers of hardtop, had disappeared because of insufficient maintenance. Of the estimated 31,000 kilometers of dirt roads and tracks, only 1,260 kilometers were all-weather roads. The remainder became impassable during the rainy season. There were no railroads in Chad.

Since independence, Chad has relied on outside donors and regional institutions for economic survival and development. Chad's principal sponsor has been France, which has subsidized the budget. Through the mechanisms of the Lomé Convention between the member of the European Economics Community (EEC) and their farmer colonies in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific (ACP), France has also subsidized Chad's cotton production and exports. French companies have dominated trade, and French banks have controlled Chad's finances.

Information on Chadian government finances was fragmentary and inconsistent. The political instability from 1976 to 1982 left large sections of the country beyond any form of central control, and during this period the state had very few finances. After 1982, however, fragmentary estimates indicated a growing importance of donor finances and a decline in internally generated revenues. In addition, during the 1980s military spending was high. Although the proportion of real government expenditures for defense was difficult to assess, it could have represented as much as 70 percent of government spending. Despite a measure of political stability after 1982, the situation worsened in 1985 with the collapse of cotton revenues. In 1986 the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) joined in efforts by other donors, including France, the EEC, and the United States, to stabilize Chad's financial and budget difficulties.


Both before and after the Chadian Civil War, the government participated actively in the economy and fostered a liberal economic development policy. It encouraged foreign investment, both public and private, and in 1987 had under review the Investment Code of 1963. The objective was to minimize regulations for the private manufacturing sector and particularly for smalland medium-sized enterprises.

The government considered the public sector a complement to, and not a substitute for, the private sector. Even so, because of the country's narrow productive base and limited cash economy, the government was forced to play an active role in the economy. This participation primarily took the form of mixed public and private marketing enterprises, called parastatals. As a partner in these ventures, the government participated in the planning and controlling of the economy and became a key actor in the service sector through the parastatals, which employed thousands of individuals.


In 1986 approximately 83 percent of the active population were farmers or herders. This sector of the economy accounted for almost half of GDP. With the exception of cotton, some small-scale sugar production, and a portion of the peanut crop, Chad's agriculture consisted of subsistence food production. The types of crops that were grown and the locations of herds were determined by considerable variations in Chad's climate.

The soudanian zone comprises those areas with an average annual rainfall of 800 millimeters or more. This region, which accounts for about 10 percent of the total land area, contains the nation's most fertile croplands. Settled agricultural communities growing a wide variety of food crops are its main features. Fishing is important in the rivers, and families raise goats, chickens, and, in some cases, oxen for plowing. In 1983 about 72 percent of all land under cultivation in Chad was in the soudanian region.

The central zone, the sahelian region, comprises the area with average annual rainfall of between 350 and 800 millimeters. The minimum rainfall needed for the hardiest of Chad's varieties of millet, called berebere, is 350 millimeters. The western area of the zone is dominated by the Chari and Logone rivers, which flow north from their sources in southern Chad and neighboring countries. The courses of these rivers, joining at N'Djamena to flow on to Lake Chad, create an ecological subregion. Fishing is important for the peoples along the rivers and along the shores of Lake Chad. Flood recession cropping is practiced along the edges of the riverbeds and lakeshore, areas that have held the most promise for irrigation in the zone. International donor attention focused on this potential beginning in the mid-1960s. Particular attention has been paid to the traditional construction of polders along the shores of Lake Chad. Land reclaimed by the use of such methods is extremely fertile. Chad's only wheat crop is cultivated in these polders.

In the rest of the sahelian region, the hardier varieties of millet, along with peanuts and dry beans, are grown. Crop yields are far lower than they are in the south or near rivers and lakes. Farmers take every advantage of seasonal flooding to grow recession crops before the waters dry away, a practice particularly popular around Lake Fitri. The sahelian region is ideal for pasturage. Herding includes large cattle herds for commercial sale, and goats, sheep, donkeys, and some horses are common in all villages.

The Saharan zone encompasses roughly the northern one-third of Chad. Except for some dates and legumes grown in the scattered oases, the area is not productive. Annual rainfall averages less than 350 millimeters, and the land is sparsely populated by nomadic tribes. Many of Chad's camel herds are found in the region, but there are few cattle or horses.

Chad's subsistence farmers practice traditional slash-and-burn agriculture in tandem with crop rotation, which is typical throughout much of Africa. Sorghum is the most important food crop, followed by millet and berebere. Less prevalent grains are corn, rice, and wheat. Other secondary crops include peanuts, sesame, legumes, and tubers, as well as a variety of garden vegetables.

Crop rotation in the soudanian zone traditionally begins with sorghum or millet in the first year. Mixed crops of sorghum and/or millet, with peanuts, legumes, or tubers, are then cultivated for approximately three years. Farmers then return the land to fallow for periods up to fifteen years, turning to different fields for the next cycle. Preparation of a field begins with cutting heavy brush and unwanted low trees or branches that are then laid on the ground. Collectively owned lands are parceled out during the dry season, and the fields are burned just before the onset of the first rains, usually around March. Farmers work most intensively during the rains between May and October, planting, weeding and protecting the crops from birds and animals. Harvesting begins in September and October with the early varieties of sorghum. The main harvest occurs in November and December. Farmers harvest crops of rice and berebere, grown along receding water courses, as late as February.

The cropping cycle for most of the sahelian zone is similar, 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.

As with most Third World countries, control of the land determines agricultural practices. There are three basic types of land tenure in Chad. The first is collective ownership by villages of croplands in their environs. In principle, such lands belong to a village collectively under the management of the village chief or the traditional chef des terres (chief of the lands). Individual farmers hold inalienable and transmittable use rights to village lands, so long as they, their heirs, or recognized representatives cultivate the land. Outsiders can farm village lands only with the authorization of the village chief or chef des terres. Renting village farmlands is possible in some local areas but is not traditional practice. Private ownership is the second type of tenure, applied traditionally to the small plots cultivated in wadis or oases. Wells belong to individuals or groups with rights to the land. Ownership of fruit trees and date palms in the oases is often separate from ownership of the land; those farmers who plant and care for trees own them. State ownership is the third type, primarily for large enterprises such as irrigation projects. Under the management of parastatal or government employees, farmers enter into contractual arrangements, including paying fees, for the use of state lands and the benefits of improved farming methods.

Detailed and reliable statistical information on Chad's agriculture was scarce in the late 1980s; most researchers viewed available statistics only as indicators of general trends. The one region for which figures were kept was the soudanian zone through survey coverage by officials of the National Office of Rural Development (Office National de Développement Rural--ONDR), who monitored cotton production. These officials also gathered information on food production, but this effort was not carried out systematically. Survey coverage of the sahelian zone was first hampered, then prevented, by civil conflict from the mid1970s to the early 1980s.

Moreover, figures from international and regional organizations often conflicted or differed in formulation. For example, total area devoted to food production was difficult to estimate because sources combined the area of fields in production with those lying fallow to give a total for arable lands. The arable land figure has shown a gradual increase since 1961. Estimated then at 2.9 million hectares, it rose to almost 3.2 million hectares in 1984. In 1983 there were about 1.2 million hectares in food production and in 1984 slightly more than 900,000 hectares. Therefore, perhaps a third of Chad's farmlands were in production in a given year, with the balance lying fallow.

<>Subsistence Farming

Chad - Cotton

Background of Cotton Cultivation

Cotton is an indigenous crop to southern Chad. In 1910 the French colonial administration organized market production on a limited scale under the direction of the military governor. By 1920 the colonial administration was promoting the large-scale production of cotton for export. The French saw cotton as the only exploitable resource for the colony and as an effective means of introducing a cash economy into the area. Indeed, the elaboration of colonial administration went hand in hand with the extension of cotton production throughout the region.

France's motives were clear: it sought to ensure a source of raw materials for its home industries and a protected market for its exports abroad. France also intended that taxes derived from commercial ventures within the colonies would offset the expenses of the colonial administration. Therefore, customs duties on cotton exports from Chad, then a part of French Equatorial Africa (Afrique Equatoriale Française--AEF), were paid to the governor general at Brazzaville (in contemporary Congo), as were duties on exports from other colonies under regional administration. Revenues from a head tax were paid in cash locally and went directly to the lieutenant governor of the colony. Not surprisingly, virtually the only means of earning the money to pay the tax was by the sale of cotton to the French.

In 1928 exploitation of cotton within the colony was placed in the hands of Cotonfran, a private company. Under the terms of the contract between the colonial administration and Cotonfran, the administration maintained a certain quantity of production by the villages, and Cotonfran bought at least 80 percent of that production. The cotton was ginned locally, but no further transformation was permitted; all the cotton fiber was then exported to France.

The colonial administration fixed the quantity of cotton produced and the price paid to the peasant producer on the basis of calculations furnished by Cotonfran of costs and expectations for the price of cotton on the world market. France reorganized village administration by replacing traditional chiefs with individuals more amenable to the colonial power, which assured the proper cultivation of the cotton crop and the collection of taxes. This system included forced labor and the subordination of growing food crops to cotton.

Production Factors

In 1988 the entirety of Chad's cotton was produced in the five soudanian prefectures of Mayo-Kebbi, Tandjilé, Logone Occidental, Logone Oriental, and Moyen-Chari, plus the Bousso region of Chari-Baguirmi Prefecture, which juts down into the soudanian zone. Few regions outside these prefectures offered sufficient water and population to sustain cotton production. Moreover, in this land of difficult transport, areas producing a cash crop also needed to be able to grow enough food for their people. Typically, the cultivation of cotton and food crops was carried on side by side. Efforts to extend the cultivation of cotton to the neighboring sahelian prefectures of Salamat and Guéra have had little success. In 1983 and 1984, with production at its highest in a decade, these two prefectures represented only .005 percent of total production. Suggestions also have been made from time to time to bring cotton production to the fertile borders of Lake Chad. Trials have shown the high yields possible there, estimated at 3,000 to 4,000 kilograms per hectare. As of 1987, however, farmers in the Lake Chad area had not taken voluntarily to cotton production. Traditionally, farmers have resisted government efforts to control local production of such crops as wheat, and the history of coercion and government intervention associated with cotton was no inducement.

The government has introduced methods to increase crop yield, which include the expanded use of fertilizers and insecticides. Even so, compared with crop yields of more than 1,000 kilograms per hectare for other francophone West African states (such as Cameroon, Mali, and Côte d'Ivoire), until 1982 Chad's crop yields did not significantly exceed 500 kilograms per hectare; from 1983 to 1987, yields averaged almost 750 kilograms per hectare.

Area under cotton cultivation reached a peak in 1963 of 338,900 hectares. From 1963 until the end of the 1970s, the area under cotton cultivation averaged 275,000 hectares. In the 1980s, however, the area has been consistently less than 200,000 hectares. By 1983 the area of land under cotton cultivation had dropped by 36 percent from the average during the 1960s and 1970s. Several sources estimated the area in southern Chad under cotton cultivation at 30 to 40 percent of all land in cultivation, and in some areas of Mayo-Kebbi Prefecture, it may have been higher.

Cotton production has exhibited wide swings. Factors such as climatic conditions, production prices, and civil strife have influenced production. The first crop to exceed 100,000 tons came in 1963, but the 1970s were the best years for production, which from 1971 to 1978 remained well above 100,000 tons per year. Chad reached its all-time record production in 1975. Production suffered from 1979 to 1982 because of the Chadian Civil War and hit a twenty-year low in 1981. In 1983, with the return of some political stability and higher market prices, production improved but then fell from 1984 to 1987, a reflection of declining world cotton prices.

Once the crop is harvested, the producers must sort the cotton to separate lower quality yellow cotton from higher quality white cotton. Since the late 1970s, the proportion of white cotton generally has been 90 percent or more of total production. Going back to the 1960s, the quality of Chadian cotton had been consistently high, except for 1972 and 1973, when the proportion of yellow cotton rose to 18 percent. Since 1980 the quality has remained high at initial sorting, with white cotton representing more than 95 percent of the crop and accounting for 98 percent of production in 1984.

Administrative Structure

In 1989 the official structure responsible for the production and marketing of cotton was composed of the ONDR under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, of Cotontchad, and of the Cotton Price Stabilization Board (Caisse de Stabilisation des Prix du Coton--CSPC). Founded in 1965, the ONDR was originally given responsibility to monitor, improve, and assist all agricultural production. By the mid-1980s, however, the government's emphasis on cotton production made the ONDR an important factor for the cotton industry only. Cotontchad, successor to Cotonfran, was founded as a parastatal company in 1971 to collect, buy, gin, transport, and export the cotton crop. The company also had responsibility for elements of the small national textile, soap, and edible oil industries. The CSPC's task was to stabilize prices paid to peasant producers by funding operating losses incurred by Cotontchad. Assuring a constant price to the producer not only helped maintain a certain level of production for Cotontchad but also limited costs to the company by holding down producer prices. The ONDR, the CSPC, Cotontchad, and the government itself were involved in determining producer prices. In addition, the CSPC supported the program to improve yields. Between 1971 and 1983, an estimated 57 percent of all payments by the CSPC were made in conjunction with the program to improve cotton production.

Other major actors in the cotton industry were the private banks, the French Textile Development Company (Compagnie Française pour le Développement des Textiles--CFDT), and French and EC institutions, as well as the World Bank. Private banks provided the credits necessary to Cotontchad and to the peasants to finance the opening of each planting season and especially to provide capital for the import and distribution of fertilizers and insecticides. The CFDT marketed Chad's cotton on the world market. The CFDT also contributed to the smooth operation of Cotontchad through technical agreements to maintain equipment and to provide expertise in improving cropping methods through the ONDR. In addition, the CFDT supported research carried out by the Cotton and Textile Research Institute (Institut de Recherche sur le Coton et les Textiles-- IRCT), a small public research facility located near Doba. Subsidies to Chad's cotton production under the Lomé Convention were paid through the Stabex system of the EEC. Those funds were channeled to the CSPC for price support to the producers. The CSPC also received portions of funds needed to assure payments to producers from Cotontchad as well as from the central government. Between 1971 and 1983, virtually all income to the CSPC derived from rebates paid by Cotontchad into the system.

After 1984 the system became far more dependent on external sources of funds (such as Stabex) because of sharply reduced income to Cotontchad. In addition to Stabex, the EC's European Development Fund (EDF) contributed directly to the program of improving yields. French assistance remained crucial to the system. The Central Fund for Economic Cooperation (Caisse Centrale de Coopération Economique--CCCE) was a shareholder in Cotontchad, and the other arm of French foreign aid, the Cooperation and Aid Fund (Fonds d'Aide et de la Coopération--FAC), directed assistance to the southern zone in support of the cotton complex. FAC also provided direct assistance to the government, which, among other things, helped pay the salaries of officials and functionaries, especially those in the ONDR.

Pricing Mechanisms

Prices paid to Chad's cotton producers, the peasants of the southern soudanian zone, have risen slowly over the years. The structure included separate prices for white cotton and for yellow cotton. From 1971, when the distinction arose, to 1978, the price for white cotton was CFA F50 per kilogram (for value of the CFA F) and stayed at this level during much of the period of heavy civil conflict until 1982. From 1982 to 1985, the price increased steeply to CFA F100 per kilogram, at which point it had leveled by 1987, despite downward pressure because of the fall in world prices and a new program of cost reductions by Cotontchad under World Bank direction. The price paid for yellow cotton has not kept pace with this rise, reaching only CFA F40 per kilogram in 1983, where it remained through 1987.

The price paid to the producer traditionally has not covered actual production costs, either for the peasant or for Cotontchad. As much as 50 percent of the costs of production has been borne by outside donors, primarily from the EDF, through the Stabex system. Between 1981 and 1984, the EDF financed between 70 and 80 percent of the costs of the program to improve yields, largely through subsidies to the CSPC for price support and subsidies for Cotontchad in the initial purchase of insecticides and fertilizers. The costs of improvements have been reimbursed only partially from payments made by producers through the ONDR.

Restructuring the System

By 1987, because world prices were still insufficient to recoup costs, Cotontchad was rapidly going broke. In the mid-1980s, annual net losses were estimated at CFA F18 billion. Net losses per kilogram of ginned cotton were estimated at CFA F453 in 1985 and CFA F298 in 1987. These figures stood in contrast to 1984, when there was a net profit of CFA F193 per kilogram. Cotontchad's position was not expected to improve unless the world price of cotton reached the CFA F600-per-kilogram range.

With World Bank backing and support from France, the Netherlands, and the EC, restructuring of Cotontchad began in 1986 with government implementation of the Emergency Cotton Program. At the producer level, the program called for freezing the price paid producers at the CFA F100-per-kilogram level through 1988 and studying new methods of fixing producer prices to reflect world market conditions. Subsidies on improved inputs, such as fertilizer and insecticides, were eliminated as of 1987, with producers assuming the costs. Cotton production was to be limited to about 100,000 tons by restricting the area under production to 75,000 hectares during the program period. At the company level, Cotontchad sold nonessential assets to the private sector (including 2 aircraft and about 150 vehicles), closed its branch office in Bangui, Central African Republic, and laid off administrative staff. It also closed six ginneries and reduced the number of cotton collection centers in accordance with the production target of 100,000 tons. For its part, the government exempted Cotontchad from taxes, particularly export duties, and suspended its contributions to the CSPC, the ONDR, and the Debt Amortization Fund (Caisse Autonome d'Amortissement--CAA). Staffs at the CSPC and the ONDR were reduced, and the roles of both organizations were reviewed.

Chad - Subsistence Farming

Since the 1950s, Chad's food production has declined. Even so, despite pockets of malnutrition remaining in areas where rains failed or locusts damaged local crops, the overall picture for Chad's food production was good in the 1985-87 period. The rebound of food production in this period was the result of good rains, the return of political stability, and the absence of major conflict in the sahelian and soudanian zones. The downturn in cotton production and added restrictions on its cultivation also released lands and labor for farmers to put into food production. Production was so high in these years that, for the first time in a decade, it was estimated that Chad had returned to food sufficiency. This followed a cereal shortfall in the drought years of 1984 and 1985 of around 325,000 tons. Total cereal production rose thereafter to the 700,000-ton level, well above the estimated 615,000 tons of grains needed for food sufficiency.

Yet the overall food sufficiency registered by Chad in these years served to underscore the problem of regional imbalances in cereal production. The sahelian zone experienced a chronic shortfall in cereal production, whereas the soudanian zone traditionally had a cereal surplus. The soudanian zone was also the biggest producer of all subsistence food crops and of cash crops. It was estimated that the soudanian zone produced between 53 and 77 percent of Chad's total cereal production from 1976 to 1985, with the average falling in the 60- to 70- percent range. But because the populations of the two regions were approximately equal, the lack of a good transport system and marketing mechanisms to allow the rapid transfer of the southern surplus to the northern zones was a constant problem. This danger was especially threatening during times of drought affecting the sahelian zone.

Sorghum and Millet

Chad's most important subsistence crops were sorghum, millet, and berebere. Areas under production for these grains showed a downward trend after the mid-1950s, dropping from an average of 1.5 million hectares to around 1 million hectares in the 1960s and 1970s and falling to levels averaging 750,000 hectares between 1981 and 1986. Taking an average for all lands devoted to grain production during the years from 1981 to 1985, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), sorghum and millet cultivation accounted for 85 percent of the total area. Between 1980 and 1985, these coarse grains accounted for 80 to 95 percent of all grain production.


In 1987 wheat was Chad's least important cereal grain. Farmers planted the crop in polders around the shores of Lake Chad, and some small planting also was done in the oases and wadis of northern Chad. Replacing an earlier state operation, the Organization for the Development of the Lake (Société pour le Développement du Lac--SODELAC) was founded in 1967 to organize cultivation and provide wheat for the state-owned flour mill at N'Djamena, the Grands Moulins du Tchad. The flour mill began operations in 1964 but closed in 1980; as of 1987, operations had not resumed. In the late 1970s, plans to plant some 20,000 hectares of wheat in polders failed because warfare around Lake Chad affected the infrastructure of SODELAC and the construction of new polders and because farmers resisted SODELAC-controlled production.

Wheat production generally followed trends similar to the production of other cereals, remaining low in the 1960s and 1970s but reaching a high in 1983. In 1984, however, production fell sharply. The bulk of wheat was traded through traditional channels to those herders in the northern regions of Chad who preferred wheat to millet or sorghum.

Rice and Corn

At the time of the French conquest, rice was grown on a small scale. Before World War I, the Germans on the Cameroon side of the Logone River encouraged the spread of rice cultivation. By World War II, the French imposed cultivation in the areas of southern Chad near Laï and Kélo, along the Logone River. Although production was destined originally for colonial troops, the taste for rice spread in some localities. What was originally intended by the French as a commercial cash crop had become a local subsistence crop by the 1980s.

The Development Office for Sategui Deressia (Office de Mise en Valeur de Sategui-Deressia--OMVSD), founded in 1976, replaced Experimental Sectors for Agricultural Modernization (Secteurs Expérimentaux de Modernisation Agricole--SEMAA), originally responsible for the organization, improvement, transformation, and commercialization of rice. Efforts by these organizations to extend commercial rice cultivation had mixed results. The area under rice cultivation has increased since the 1950s. Yet even in the 1980s, the greater part of this area was cultivated by traditional means. Schemes for controlled paddies at Bongor and Laï put only 3,500 hectares and 1,800 hectares, respectively, into cultivation before political events of the late 1970s and early 1980s disrupted efforts and international donor funding ceased. The bulk of rice production from traditional floodwater paddies was traded to the towns and cities or was consumed locally.

Corn was a crop of minor importance, grown in and around village gardens for local consumption. Production from the late 1960s through the mid-1980s remained in the 20,000- to 30,000-ton range. By 1987 no efforts at commercialization had been made, nor had the government tried to improve and extend corn production.


Peanuts have become an important food crop in Chad. Peanuts were eaten roasted or dry, and their oil was used in cooking. Peanuts were cultivated in both the soudanian and the sahelian zones. Production of peanuts was more stable than that of any other major crop, staying in the 90,000- to 100,000-ton range from the 1950s through 1987, with dips in drought years. The area under peanut production also remained stable, although kilograms-per-hectare yields declined slightly. The droughtresistant nature of peanuts made their production particularly important for the peoples of the sahelian zone, where peanuts were planted alone or in combination with millet in the first year of rotation; in the soudanian region, peanuts were traditionally planted in the third year of crop rotation.

Although considerable efforts were made to commercialize peanut production, most efforts failed. Through the 1960s and 1970s, about 97 percent of the annual crop went to local consumption. What remained was sold to various edible oil manufacturing concerns, none of which succeeded. For example, a Chinese-built peanut oil mill at Abéché, finished in 1969, never operated. Local farmers sold surplus peanuts through traditional channels, rather than to the state monopoly set up in 1965, the National Trading Company of Chad (Société Nationale de Commercialisation du Tchad--SONACOT). This parastatal bought local produce for sale abroad or domestically to state-run commercial operations. Unlike Cotontchad, SONACOT was never given the means to compel farmers to sell their crops, and it did not have the resources to compete with prices offered by traditional traders. With the collapse of central authority in 1979, SONACOT disappeared. The only commercial sales of peanuts were then limited to Cotontchad purchases in the south, but by 1987 these had been halted to reduce costs.


The importance of tubers has grown dramatically over the years. Cassava and yams were the most important crops in this category, with much smaller production of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and coco yams (taro). Grown only in the soudanian zone, tubers were once neglected, although such cultivation is widespread in other parts of subtropical West Africa. Estimates in the 1950s put tuber production at 50,000 tons annually. Production rose and by 1961 it exceeded 200,000 tons. From 1961 to 1984, the proportion of roots and tubers in the national diet rose from 6 to 17 percent. The reason for this important shift in eating habits among people of the soudanian zone was the hedge these crops provided against famine in years when drought reduced millet and sorghum production.

Chad - Livestock

Livestock raising, and in particular cattle herding, is a major economic activity. Animal husbandry was the main source of livelihood for perhaps a third of Chad's people. The growing importance of cattle and meat exports underscored this point. In the 1960s and 1970s, these exports were estimated at between 25 and 30 percent of all merchandise exports. The proportion of these exports grew in the 1980s as the value of cotton exports declined. It was impossible, however, to know with certainty the actual values of cattle exports. For processed meat exports, less uncertainty existed because these exports were controlled from the slaughterhouse to the point of export; in 1985 processed meat exports represented less than 1 percent of all merchandise exports. The real value of Chad's cattle herds was in the export by traditional traders to markets in Cameroon and Nigeria. These "on the hoof" exports passed largely outside the control of customs services. Therefore, these exports were neither counted nor taxed. Perhaps one-fourth of cattle's estimated 30-percent share of total exports, was officially recorded.

The size of Chad's herds was also difficult to determine. Considered to have declined in the mid-1970s and again in the early 1980s because of drought and warfare across the sahelian zone, estimated to be growing at a rate of 4 percent annually, reached some 4 million head of cattle, 4.5 million sheep and goats, 500,000 camels, and 420,000 horses and donkeys by the mid-1980s. Sheep and goats were found in all regions of Chad.

Before the drought of the 1980s, the sahelian zone held the largest herds, with about 80 percent of the total cattle herd. Smaller numbers of cattle were found in the soudanian zone, along with about 100,000 buffaloes used in plowing cotton fields. Camel herds were concentrated in the dry northern regions. Herders practiced transhumance--seasonal migrations along fairly well-set patterns.

With the 1984-85 drought, transhumance patterns changed. Camels were brought farther south into the sahelian zone in search of water. Cattle were herded even farther south, sometimes through Salamat Prefecture into Central African Republic.

The government and international donor community had contemplated considerable improvements for Chad's livestock management, but these plans were undermined by the Chadian Civil War, political instability, and an inadequate infrastructure. The most successful programs have been animal vaccination campaigns, such as an emergency project carried out in 1983 to halt the spread of rinderpest. The campaign reached some 4.7 million head of cattle across the nation and demonstrated the capabilities of Chad's animal health service when given external support. The Livestock and Veterinary Medicine Institute of Chad (Institut d'Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire du Tchad--IEMVT), which was financed by foreign aid, was capable of producing vaccines for Chad as well as for neighboring countries. Despite plant capacity, by 1984 a lack of a trained staff limited production to vaccines for anthrax and pasteurellosis.

Two institutional efforts to manage cattle marketing were attempted in the 1970s and 1980s. The Chadian Animal Resources Improvement Company (Société Tchadienne d'Exploitation des Ressources Animales-- SOTERA), a mixed enterprise formed as a livestock company with participation by some traditional livestock traders, began operations in 1978. Its aim was to control live animal exports through a license system and to have a monopoly on exports of chilled meat and hides. It was hoped at the time that the association of traders to SOTERA would increase the effective collection of export taxes on livestock by 50 to 75 percent. By 1984, however, SOTERA handled only a small portion of the domestic market and less than 30 percent of the export trade. A second institution, the Center for the Modernization of Animal Production (Centre de Modernisation des Productions Animales--CMPA), was engaged in marketing dairy products, supplying chicks to farmers, and overseeing the sale of eggs and the processing of feed. But, among other problems, the CMPA was unable to compete with local traders for milk needed to produce cheese for sale. Although highly subsidized, this venture also was unsuccessful and demonstrated the resilience of the traditional private network for marketing produce.

Despite these institutional difficulties, the international community continued to support efforts to expand animal health services to Chad's herders. Some estimates suggest that the nation's herds could be increased by 35 percent if the distribution of water were improved, extension services were made more available, and animal health services were expanded.

Chad - Fishing

With its two major rivers, Lake Chad, and many runoff zones, in the 1970s Chad ranked high among Africa's producers of inland freshwater fish. With the drought and diversion of the waters of some rivers, however, production declined in the 1980s. Traditionally, fish has been an important source of protein for those living along the rivers and lakes, and fishing was also a means of earning cash. Because it was practiced in an entirely traditional manner and totally outside the control of government or modern commercial enterprises, there was no accurate statistical information on fishing.

In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, total production of fish was estimated at between 60,000 and 120,000 tons per year. But because these figures represent production for the Logone River and Lake Chad, which are shared with Cameroon Niger, and Nigeria, Chad's fish production amounted to an estimated 70 percent of the total. The largest part of the catch--perhaps two-thirds--was consumed locally. In areas adjacent to urban centers, some portion--usually the best of the catch, such as large Nile perch (called capitaine in Chad)--was marketed fresh. Along Lake Chad and the river borders with Cameroon, the surplus catch was dried, salted, or smoked before being sold. Between 1976 and 1985, production of dried, salted, or smoked fish was estimated at 20,000 tons annually, representing from 20 to 25 percent of Chad's total annual catch. 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.

Through the mid-1980s, Chad had taken few steps to control or modernize fishing or to promote fish conservation, although some plans had been made in the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps the most significant innovation applied by Chadian fishermen has been their use of nylon netting, which began in the 1960s. During the periods of conflict, no government plans could be carried out to control fishing. Although considerable potential existed for the development of the Chadian fishing industry, because of insufficient government interest traditional production and marketing of freshwater fish was likely to remain unchanged for the near term.

Chad - Forestry

Like most states of the African Sahel, Chad has suffered desertification--the encroachment of the desert. Traditional herding practices and the need for firewood and wood for construction have exacerbated the problem. In the early 1980s, the country possessed between 13.5 million and 16 million hectares of forest and woodlands, representing a decline of almost 14 percent from the early 1960s. To what extent this decline was caused by climatic changes and to what extent by herding and cutting practices was unknown. Regulation was difficult because some people traditionally made their living selling wood and charcoal for fuel and wood for construction to people in the urban center. Although the government attempted to limit wood brought into the capital, the attempts have not been well managed, and unrestricted cutting of woodlands remained a problem.



The small industrial sector was dominated by agribusiness, and Cotontchad in particular. Next in importance were the National Sugar Company of Chad (Société Nationale Sucrière du Tchad-- SONASUT), the Chadian Textile Company (Société Tchadienne de Textile--STT), the Logone Breweries (Brasseries du Logone--BdL), and the Cigarette Factory of Chad (Manufacture des Cigarettes du Tchad--MCT). Observers estimated that these five industries generated some 20 percent of GDP. Of lesser importance were the Farcha Slaughterhouse (Abattoir Frigorifique de Farcha), the Industrial Agricultural Equipment Company (Société Industrielle de Matériel Agricole du Tchad--SIMAT), and Soft Drinks of Chad (Boissons Gazeuses du Tchad--BGT).

During the Chadian Civil War, the facilities and equipment of many industries were badly damaged. Most industrial operations either ceased or were reduced greatly, and almost all foreign investors withdrew from the country. Those operations that did continue on a reduced scale were limited to the soudanian region, which was not involved directly in large-scale fighting. By 1983, with the reestablishment of political stability on a national scale, the five major industrial concerns resumed full operations, and the less significant ones, such as SIMAT and the BGT, were rebuilt.

With the exception of the two bottling companies (the BGT and the BdL), which were privately owned, all the other important industries were either parastatals with majority government ownership or mixed companies with important government participation. For the most part, private participation was limited to French investors; investment by private Chadian interests was extremely rare. French companies were also important shareholders in the larger Chadian companies, such as Cotontchad. Except for Cotontchad, whose top management was Chadian, all the other major industries were run by expatriate directors, accountants, and mid-level managers who, for the most part, were French.

Industrial output grew rapidly in 1983 and 1984, as industries resumed operations that had been interrupted by war. By 1984 and 1985, prewar levels of output had been either reached or exceeded. Growth slowed for all industries after 1985, however, because of the dramatic downturn of world cotton prices, and output in 1986 began to decline.

Cotton fiber production by Cotontchad, which directly reflected production of raw cotton, fell sharply in 1985. This decline was stabilized in 1986-87 by emergency support from international donors. These donors prescribed retrenchment programs to prevent the total collapse of the cotton industry. The restrictions imposed on the production of ginned cotton fiber, however, reduced by half the number of ginning mills, with raw cotton production limited to about 100,000 tons. Production of edible oils by Cotontchad was also affected by the program of cost savings.

Other industries were affected directly by the fall of cotton prices. STT textile production slowed, as did the production of agricultural equipment by SIMAT, which made plowing equipment for use in cotton planting. Furthermore, the drop in revenues to farmers in the soudanian zone for their cotton and peanut production affected their ability to buy equipment. Lost revenues to farmers, along with the reduction in the numbers of workers needed in ginning operations, took a toll on cash earnings and therefore on buying power. By 1986 the ripple effect of these lost revenues in the cotton sector was widespread. The downturn in production in all industries left Chad with considerable unused capacity, ranging from 15 to 50 percent.

A number of other factors resulted in the slump in Chadian industry. Commercial sale of goods was low in a largely cash poor or nonmonetary economy. The decline in the cotton sector, which had provided the largest infusion of cash into the economy, further reduced consumer demand. Another impediment to industry was the high local cost of production compared with the cost of production in neighboring countries. Factors that raised local production costs included high transportation costs, overdependence on imports, and restricted economies of scale for small operations. Imported inputs were equivalent to about 30 percent of industrial turnover for Cotontchad, the BdL, and the STT and to about 60 percent for the MCT. Local substitutes for inputs were often more expensive than imported equivalents. Imports were often marketed to subsidize local production by a given industry. An example was SONASUT's importing refined sugar at less than local production costs, selling it locally, and using the proceeds to subsidize sugarcane production on SONASUT plantations. Interlocking relationships of production among companies also kept production costs high. For example, the BGT used SONASUT's refined sugar in its production of soft drinks, according to a convention with the government to use local inputs, even though imported refined sugar was cheaper.

Before the warfare of the 1979-82 period, Chad's industrial sector included between 80 and 100 small- to medium-sized enterprises, in addition to the major manufacturing industries. Most processed agricultural products or competed in the importexport trade. About half were local subsidiaries of foreign-owned firms or were Chadian firms with significant foreign capital. The foreign-owned distributorships sold agricultural equipment, construction materials, and petroleum products.

Since 1983 the return of foreign investment has been slow because of the high costs of rebuilding and a continuing perception of political uncertainty. Of the approximately twenty enterprises that had reopened by the late 1980s, most were import-export enterprises that lacked a formal relationship with the banking sector. Most Chadian-owned enterprises had managed to reestablish themselves. Yet by 1986, small enterprises that had assembled bicycles, motorcycles, and radios remained closed.

The lack of access to credit was another impediment to business expansion in Chad. Despite the reopening in 1983 of the Bank of Central African States (Banque des Etats d'Afrique Centrale--BEAC) and of two commercial banks, the International Bank for Africa in Chad (Banque Internationale pour l'Afrique au Tchad--BIAT) and the Chadian Credit and Deposit Bank (Banque Tchadienne de Crédit et de Dépôt--BTCD), the high proportion of available credit going to Chad's major industries limited credit available to smaller enterprises. Moreover, the banks invoked strict criteria for loan eligibility because of the high risk of lending in Chad. Few owners of small businesses knew sufficient accounting and technical skills to meet bank information requirements for loans.


The only mineral exploited in Chad was sodium carbonate, or natron. Also called sal soda or washing soda, natron was used as a salt for medicinal purposes, as a preservative for hides, and as an ingredient in the traditional manufacture of soap; herders also fed it to their animals. Natron deposits were located around the shore of Lake Chad and the wadis of Kanem Prefecture.

Natron occurs naturally in two forms: white and black. More valuable commercially, hard blocks of black natron were exported to Nigeria. White natron was sold on local markets, principally in N'Djamena and farther to the south. Although efforts were made in the late 1960s to control the commercialization of natron through the creation of a parastatal, by 1970 those efforts had failed because of resistance by traditional chiefs and traders who controlled production through a system of perpetual indebtedness.

A number of other mineral deposits are known, but none had been commercially exploited by the mid-1980s. Bauxite is found in the soudanian zone, and gold-bearing quartz is reported in Biltine Prefecture. Uranium is reported in the Aozou Strip, as are tin and tungsten in other parts of the Tibesti Mountains, but exploration reports in 1971 for these three minerals did not indicate large or rich deposits. As of 1987, conflicts in the region prevented further exploration.

By far the potentially most important resource is oil. In 1970 a consortium of Conoco, Shell, Chevron, and Exxon started exploration and in 1974 discovered minor oil deposits at Sédigi, near Rig Rig, to the north of Lake Chad. Total reserves at Sédigi were estimated at 60 million tons, or roughly 438 million barrels of oil. Exploration in 1985 by the Exxon-led consortium discovered potentially large deposits near Doba in the southern region of Chad. Further efforts were suspended in 1986 when world oil prices continued to drop, although the consortium maintained a liaison office in N'Djamena in 1988.

Plans existed in the late 1970s to exploit the deposits at Sédigi and to construct a small refinery at N'Djamena. Those plans lapsed during the conflicts of the late 1970s and early 1980s but were revived in 1986 by the government with the support of the World Bank. The reasons for proceeding with plans to exploit these deposits and build a refinery were clear. The cost of importing petroleum products exceeded the cost of extracting and refining domestic crude, even when international oil prices were low. The plans, which anticipated operations to begin in the early 1990s, included well development in the Sédigi field, a pipeline to N'Djamena, a refinery with a 2,000- to 5,000-barrels-per-day capacity, and the transformation or acquisition of power-generating equipment in the capital to burn the refinery's residual fuel oil. The refinery's output would satisfy 80 percent of Chad's annual fuel needs, including all gasoline, diesel, butane, and kerosene; lubricants and jet fuel, however, would still have to be imported.

Water and Electricity

In the late 1980s, public utilities in Chad were extremely limited. The Chadian Water and Electricity Company (Société Tchadienne d'Eau et d'Electricité--STEE), was the major public utility company. The government held 82 percent of the shares and CCCE held 18 percent. STEE provided water and electricity to the four main urban areas, N'Djamena, Moundou, Sarh, and Abéché. The company supplied water, but not electricity, to six other towns. Despite old equipment and high maintenance costs, STEE was able to meet about half of peak demand, which increased significantly from 1983 to 1986. Production of electricity rose by 35 percent from 1983 to 1986, and the supply of water increased by 24 percent during the same period. In 1986 STEE produced 62.1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and supplied 10.8 million cubic meters of water.

In N'Djamena the majority of households had access to water. There were, however, only about 3,000 officially connected customers, a good proportion of which were collective customers. There were also an estimated 1,500 illegal water connections. The rest of the people received water from standpipes. Some 5,000 customers were officially connected for electricity in the capital in 1986, with an unknown number of illegal connections. Because electricity was so expensive and because electrical appliances were beyond the means of most people, the consumption of power per household was low. The high cost of electricity also hindered the expansion of small- and medium-sized enterprises.


Historically, Chad has been a country of traders. The ancient kingdoms of Kanem, Borno, and Wadai built their power on trade with Libya, Egypt, and Sudan. During the colonial period, trade increased with francophone countries and Nigeria. In the 1970s, the structure and direction of external trade remained similar to the pattern of colonial times, the most important trading partners being France and Nigeria. Exports to France were principally cotton fiber, and imports were finished manufactured goods and equipment. Much of the trade with Nigeria, consisting of cattle, fish, natron, and other traditional products, was unrecorded and did not pass through official channels. Since the civil upheavals of the late 1970s and early 1980s, which restricted all external trade, unofficial trade with Nigeria has resumed. Official trade with France declined after 1982, primarily because many French-affiliated firms closed during the conflicts. As of late 1987, many of those concerns had not reopened.

Controlling smuggling and black market activity was very difficult. Chad and its neighbors had few resources that could be devoted to border control. Collusion among smugglers and border patrols and customs agents was common. Moreover, Chad's unofficial trade with Nigeria, Cameroon, and Central African Republic has historical and social roots. Tribal and extended family connections across borders encouraged traders to maintain long-range commercial and financial networks beyond colonial and, later, national government control and taxes. Traders unofficially exported the bulk of Chad's exports of cattle, fish, and other traditional products. Unofficial imports consisted of petroleum products and consumer goods, such as sugar, cooking oil, soap, and cigarettes, that competed with production by national industries. The permeability of Chad's borders and the informality of traditional trading networks denied the government revenues ordinarily derived from export-import duties. Locally produced goods and legal imports fared badly in this market, burdened as they were with high production costs, lack of economies of scale, and price distortions imposed by government controls.


The bulk of Chad's official exports were agricultural products, which have accounted for 80 to 95 percent of all exports since independence. Of these exports, cotton fiber was most important, followed by cattle and beef exports. The value of Chad's cotton fiber exports rose steadily in the 1970s. During the early 1980s, as armed conflict took its toll on cotton production, the value of cotton fiber exports dropped. The return of political stability in 1983 and increased cotton production coincided with a rise in world cotton prices, resulting in dramatic increases in the value of Chad's cotton exports in 1983 and 1984. The value of these exports more than doubled from 1982 to 1983 and almost doubled again in 1984.

The downturn of world cotton prices in 1985 caused a collapse in cotton exports. The value of cotton fiber exports from Chad in 1985 was less than half that of the record 1984 level; the value fell even further in 1986. In 1984 cotton fiber had represented 73 percent of the value of all Chad's exports, but in 1986 it represented only 43 percent. The value of all exports also reflected the decline, falling. From a high in 1984 of almost CFA F48 billion to around CFA F34 billion in 1986.

The estimated value of Chad's cattle exports remained more stable from 1983 to 1986. As the value of cotton fiber exports declined, the relative importance of cattle exports to the Chadian economy grew.


Since the late 1960s, the economic significance of imported manufactured and capital goods has grown considerably. From 1967 to 1970, manufactured goods of all types accounted for 46 to 50 percent of Chad's imports. By 1975 manufactured goods accounted for 65 percent of imports. The total value of all imports also grew, doubling between 1965 and 1970 to almost CFA F13 billion. Total imports continued to grow through 1978 to nearly CFA F36 billion before showing a serious decline from 1979 to 1981 because of the heavy fighting. Imports increased after 1982, reaching around CFA F37 billion in 1983 and then doubling by 1985. The leap in imports between these years reflected not only the increase in imported manufactured and capital goods needed to rebuild the shattered economic infrastructure but also an increase in food assistance in these years of drought. The downturn of imports between 1985 and 1986 indicated in part a decline in food imports with the return of good rains.

Direction of Trade

Throughout the 1960s--Chad's first decade of independence-- France remained its most important official trading partner. In 1970 France absorbed 73 percent of Chad's exports and provided some 40 percent of Chad's imports. Between 1979 and 1985, Chad diversified its markets by trading more actively with Spain, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), and particularly Portugal, which absorbed the bulk of Chad's exports, mainly cotton fiber. By 1985 France ranked sixth behind Portugal, West Germany, Cameroon, Spain and the Benelux countries (Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg). Chad's exports of beef and other traditional products to its neighbors, and especially to Nigeria, did not appear in official trade figures.

Although losing significance as a customer, France remained Chad's most important supplier. In 1985 France supplied almost onefourth of Chad's total imports. The United States ranked second, followed by Cameroon, Italy, and the Benelux countries; unspecified West European countries accounted for about 21 percent of Chad's imports in 1985. Chad had little trade with Middle Eastern and North African countries. Both official and black market oil imports came from either Cameroon or Nigeria. Chad had no declared trade with the Soviet Union or East European countries.

CITATION: Federal Research Division of the
Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

TRY USING CTRL-F on your keyboard to find the appropriate section of text


what's new | rainforests home | for kids | help | madagascar | search | about | languages | contact

Copyright 2013 Mongabay.com