Most of Senegal lies within the drought-prone Sahel region, with irregular rainfall and generally poor soils. With only about 5% of the land irrigated, the heavy reliance on rainfed cultivation results in large fluctuations in production. About 70% of the working population is involved in farming. Agriculture (including forestry, livestock, and fisheries) accounts for 18% of GDP. Most Senegalese farms are small (1.5–2.4 hectares/3.7–5.9 acres), and about 60% are in the so-called Peanut Basin, east of Dakar. Much of the agricultural land is still tribally owned. Only about 11% of Senegal's total land area is cultivated; millet took up 40% of the cultivated land in 1999; peanuts, 36%.
Since independence, the Senegalese government has developed a system of generally small cooperatives to rationalize agricultural production and marketing and to free the farmers from chronic indebtedness to private traders; these were replaced in 1984 by a network of "village sections" with financial autonomy. Parastatal agencies guarantee minimum prices of major agricultural crops, including peanuts, millet, sorghum, rice, and cotton.
In theory all peanuts are processed locally, and prices of processed peanut oil and other peanut products are set by parastatal agencies. Production of unshelled peanuts varies widely because of periodic drought, and production is frequently underreported because of unauthorized sales to processors in neighboring countries. In 1999, the reported production was 828,000 tons (95% for oil). Cotton, Senegal's other major export crop, is produced and marketed under the direction of the Society for the Development of Textile Fibers (Société de Développement des Fibres Textiles—SODEFITEX). Seed cotton production was 21,000 tons in 1999.
Production of food crops, some of which are grown in rotation with peanuts, does not meet Senegal's needs. Only in years of favorable rainfall does the country approach self-sufficiency in millet and sorghum, the basic staples. Production amounts in 1999 included (in thousands of tons): millet, 506; sorghum, 147; rice, 240; corn, 66; and cassava, 42. Market gardening takes place largely in the Dakar region and to a lesser extent around Thiès. Sugarcane, grown on about 8,000 hectares (19,700 acres), yielded 887,000 tons of sugarcane in 1999.