Niger - Agriculture
Although only 2.8% of Niger's area is cultivated, farmers increased their production following the 1968–75 drought, and in 1980, the country became self-sufficient in food crops. The most plentiful rains in 30 years fell during the 1992–1993 season, pushing agricultural production up by 64%. Irrigation and off-season farming projects are of keen interest to the government and foreign donors. During 1990–2000, agricultural production grew by an annual average of 3.2%. Almost 95% of the active population is engaged in crop cultivation or animal husbandry. Agricultural techniques are still rudimentary; there are a few tractors in use (only 130 in 1998), and most farmers do not keep draft animals. Very little fertilizer is used. Irrigated land in 1998 totaled about 66,000 hectares (163,100 acres). Only 12% of Niger's total land area, located along the southern border, is potentially useful for rainfed cultivation. Over 95% of agriculture is on farms of less than five hectares (12 acres), with the average about three hectares (7.5 acres). Production of millet, the staple food of most of the people, depends heavily on rainfall. In 1999, millet production was 2,253,000 tons, sorghum was 481,000 tons, and rice was 73,000 tons. Other crops (with their estimated output) include cassava (230,000 tons), sugarcane (174,000 tons), onions (180,000 tons), and sweet potatoes (35,000 tons). Cowpeas are an important crop, but are only competitive as an export in neighboring Nigeria's market due to transportation costs. The government of Niger is encouraging crop diversification and the raising of export crops like onions, garlic, peppers, and potatoes, in addition to cowpeas.
Peanuts, formerly the main source of agricultural export revenue, are planted mainly in the Zinder area. Production increased from 8,980 tons in 1945 to a high of 298,000 tons in 1967. Because of a lack of producer incentives, production declined to only 87,000 tons in 1982, and only a fraction of that total was delivered to the government marketing agency, SOMARA, which had a monopoly on pricing and marketing peanut products until 1986. Production was reported at 108,000 tons for 1999.
Cotton, introduced in 1956 to reduce Niger's dependence on peanuts, has also suffered from lack of grower incentives. Production of seed cotton rose from 218 tons in 1956 to 6,682 tons in 1967 but was only around 4,000 tons in 1999.