Although Chad's economy is based largely on agriculture,
only about 2% of the total land area of Chad is considered arable. About 10%
is forested and more than one-third can be used to pasture livestock. In the
arid northerly regions, people tend small plots irrigated by wells and springs.
The southern region, with its rivers, floodplains and rainy season, is the
most productive part of the country.
Since the arrival of the French, cotton has dominated the agriculture of Chad; it is still the most important agricultural export. Chad is the second largest producer of cotton in Africa, after Egypt. Sorghum and millet are the primary food crops. Other crops include corn, rice, wheat, tobacco, cassava, peanuts, legumes and vegetables. Many families grow subsistence crops as well as cash crops. The country also exports animal hides and livestock.
There are three main types of land ownership in Chad. The first is collective ownership by villages. Lands belong to an entire village and are under the management of the village chief. The second is private ownership. Small plots cultivated in dry river beds or oases may be owned by an individual or a family. The third is government ownership. Large plantations, watered by irrigation projects, are usually state owned. Along the southeastern shore of Lake Chad, polders (fields created by building dykes beside lakes and rivers) have been made to grow wheat and corn.
In the northern Saharan region, Gorane life centres
on herding livestock, the major source of income. In oases, the Gorane
cultivate dates, garden vegetables, legumes and some grains. In a few
places, the Gorane also mine salt and natron (a salt-like substance used
for medicinal purposes and for livestock).
There are some small industries in Chad. Chadians refine sugar and manufacture beer, cotton textiles and cottonseed oil. Chad's economic future may be affected by the exploitation of its oil deposits. The Doba oil field project in southern Chad has raised hopes for the country's economy, but has drawn opposition because of its perceived ecological and social impact.