Agriculture and herding employ 47 percent of the workforce, although its contribution to GDP is 25 percent due to its inefficiency. Most farmers are engaged in subsistence agriculture and never buy food outside their households. Farms produce dates, millet, sorghum, and root crops, while herders raise cattle and sheep. Fishing is the second largest foreign revenue source after mining. Along its 754 kilometer (469 mile) Atlantic coast, Mauritania has some of the richest fishing grounds in the world. The sector, however, is harmed by the lack of effective government policy, mismanagement, and limited technical ability to monitor and control the resources. In 1997, the government launched a reform to strengthen its control, increase the fishing areas, and encourage joint ventures with foreign companies.
There is very little arable land in Mauritania, while permanent pastures occupy 38 percent of the territory and forests and woodland cover just 4 percent. Mauritania's cereal production covers 35 percent of the country's needs (527,297 metric tons) and the food situation in 1999 called for massive imports and donor aid. The Senegal River valley has attracted local investors to regional dam projects relevant also to navigation, power generation, and distribution. The World Bank supports an irrigation program aimed at rehabilitating 11,000 hectares along the Senegal River and diversifying the crops. In 1998, the government adopted a long-term development strategy to guarantee food security and conserve natural resources by promoting private investment and introducing irrigation.