Climate & Agriculture
A hot climate
There are broadly three climate zones in Chad:-
i) The north is hot and arid, receiving almost no rain. It is known as the ‘Saharan zone’.
Changing weather patterns
Each year, the length of the rainy season can vary considerably (by more than 30%). This means it is common for dry years to alternate with wet years. However, meteorologists say rain patterns are changing across the Sahel and there are more frequent dry spells. Scientists believe a rise in water temperatures in the nearby Gulf of Guinea has shifted the flow of rain clouds southwards.
ii) The central Sahel region is hot and subtropical, with a wet season from May to November which normally brings over 350mm of rain and in some places much more.
iii) In the south, rainfall is higher and on average, regions receive over 1,000mm.
Temperatures in the capital N’Djamena, in the southwestern region of the country, average around 24°C in January and 33°C in May. During the rainy season, the cloud cover lowers average temperatures to around 27°C in July and August.
Hardy crops and animals
Across the northern third of the country, in the Saharan zone, crops such as dates, beans and fruits can be grown in oases scattered across the region.
Oases are also known as ‘wadis’. Here, water from underground sources is used to cultivate trees and some crops.
Across the north, east and central arid or semi-arid areas, farmers rely on grazing livestock across wide areas. Cattle are the most prized animals, but in the driest areas, nomadic groups often raise hardier animals such as goats and camels.
With recurring droughts across the Sahel region, traditional farming is threatened by a shortage of rain and pastureland. Once farmers have lost their livestock, it is hard for them to start over.
In the middle and south
When they can, farmers leave fields fallow for long periods (up to fifteen years) after cultivating them for a few seasons.
Rain-fed agriculture can be practised in areas which receive more than 350mm of annual rain. The main cereal crops are sorghum and millet. Farmers also grow root crops such as potatoes and cassava/manioc, as well as groundnuts/peanuts, beans and vegetables.
For export, cotton is the major crop – see Cotton. It was introduced on a large scale by the French – see History & Politics. However, this cash crop can only be grown in areas with the highest rainfall in the south or where there is a reliable source of water.