In spite of considerable oil revenues, Chad remains one of the world’s poorest countries, with 80% of its labor force in the agricultural sector. The country’s agricultural potential is underexploited. There are sufficient water resources to irrigate over 5 million hectares of land, weather droughts, and increase agricultural production substantially. With appropriate infrastructure and support, one-third of Chad’s land area could be used to grow crops. Instead, with a highly variable climate, frequent severe droughts and only 7000 hectares of irrigated farmland, agricultural productivity remains low.
Overgrazing, deforestation, inappropriate farming practices, and the pressure of increased numbers of people and livestock have caused substantial land degradation. Open access land-use practices threaten the sustainability of forests and pastureland. Clearance of natural vegetation as a short-term strategy for food production has led to rings of desertification and deforestation around population centers. Land-use conflicts between pastoralist and agricultural interests have intensified, adding to migration pressure and undermining social cohesion.
The legal framework and institutions governing Chad’s land and other natural resources are inadequate to manage the serious challenges described above. The country’s skeletal land legislation dates from 1967 and does not reach critical issues of land tenure, including the evolution of communal tenure to individualized rights, rights to pasture and range land, and the pressure of a growing population on limited arable land. Chad has no land policy and the government’s efforts to establish basic policy principles appear stalled.
KEY ISSUES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR INTERVENTIONS
Chad’s history of conflict, inadequate resource management, and competition for natural resources prioritize the need for much more effective governance structures, which in turn requires the development of a robust legal framework and supporting institutions with the capacity to ensure effective management of resources and enforce land and natural resource rights. Consequently, the following areas require attention as the foundations of sustainable development of the agricultural sector:
- Legal Framework. As the government recognized when it established a Land Tenure Observatory in 2001, Chad needs a land policy and laws that: take into account aspects of existing customary and Islamic laws; provide guidance on rights to pastureland and natural resources; allow for the formalization of land rights; set standards for the transfer of land; and establish effective, enforceable systems of land dispute resolution. Donors can support the government’s efforts to collect information needed to draft a land policy and necessary land legislation, giving particular attention to the rights to and administration of pastureland, and the rights of herders versus sedentary farmers, which are major sources of continuing conflict. It will be critically important to provide the legislation and basic information in local languages to traditional leaders, local officials, and NGOs working at the grassroots level.
- Land Administration and Dispute Resolution. The main environmental threats in Chad – desertification and land degradation, deforestation, water scarcity, and loss of biodiversity – result from climatic variability and weak local governance, especially regarding natural resources. A decentralized system will allow for the development of local solutions to issues such as the migratory use of land by herders and the formalization of rights to community and individual land parcels in the southern region. Chad’s lack of strong central governance of land and natural resources, its constitutional call for decentralization of governance systems, and its history of local traditional control create an opportunity for donors to support government efforts to develop effective decentralized land administration and dispute resolution mechanisms and institutions.
- Women’s Land Rights. Twenty-three percent of Chad’s households are headed by women and 54% of these live on less than US $1 a day. Most women lack access to fertile land and live off minor food-processing activities, the sale of firewood, and informal sector jobs. Land and housing in urban areas require rent payments, which women usually cannot afford. Donors can take advantage of the strong culture of women’s organizations in Chad and assist the government in developing land-access programs for women. Assistance with the legal framework will create opportunities to improve women’s land rights by eliminating the provisions that allow discriminatory principles of customary and religious law to trump formal law, and supporting the ongoing efforts to revise Civil Code provisions regarding inheritance and divorce. In addition, donors could assist the government by piloting projects to implement women’s rights through legal literacy campaigns, capacity building among traditional leaders and local officials, and land and land-based programs targeting women.
- Community Forest Management. Chad’s forests are threatened by overuse and misuse. The formal law provides for participatory forest management but Chadian institutions are ill-prepared to implement the law. Donors could assist the government by providing capacity-building and institutional development in the area of forest management, and assisting communities in developing workable models for sustainable forest use.
Despite the recent influx of substantial revenues for oil production, Chad remains among the world’s ten poorest countries, ranking 175th of 182 countries on the United Nations 2009 Human Development Index. Fifty-seven percent of Chad’s population lives on less than US $1 per day. More than half the population (95% of women) over age 15 is illiterate. Only 1% of the population has electricity in their homes, and about 33% have potable water. As a result of male migration and death, 23% of households in urban and rural areas are headed by women.Women-headed households are among the poorest families.
Agriculture employs 80% of Chad’s labor force. The climate is variable, characterized by frequent severe droughts, and productivity is low. Overgrazing, deforestation, inappropriate farming practices, and the pressure of increased numbers of people and livestock have caused substantial land degradation. Open access land-use practices threaten the sustainability of forests and pasture land. Chadians are clearing the natural vegetation as a short-term strategy for food production, and rings of desertification and deforestation have developed around population centers. Land-use conflicts between pastoralist and agricultural interests have intensified, adding to migration pressure and undermining social cohesion.
In urban areas 90% of households live in informal housing that is often erected using substandard materials in areas unsuitable for construction, such as swamps and landfills. Many housing settlements lack sewage facilities, and access to clean water, while improving in coverage to about 50% of the total population in 2008, continues to be limited in urban areas and cholera, typhoid, and meningitis are common.
The legal framework and institutions governing Chad’s land and other natural resources are inadequate to manage the challenges facing the country. The country’s skeletal land legislation dates from 1967 and does not reach critical issues of land tenure, including the evolution of communal tenure to individualized rights, rights to pasture and range land, and the pressure of a growing population on limited arable land. Chad has no land policy and the government’s efforts to establish basic policy principles appear stalled (CILSS 2003).
Chad’s mineral sector is dominated by oil, which in 2008 was responsible for 80% of government revenue. The government’s failure to adhere to agreements regarding the use of oil revenues for poverty alleviation (a condition of the World Bank’s loan for the construction of the Chad-Cameroon Pipeline project) led to the partial closure of the Bank’s office in Chad in 2008 and a suspension of many of the Bank’s programs. The government is finding new investors to explore and exploit oil fields not currently under production.