Surprisingly for an oil-producing nation, Chad is one of the poorest countries in the world. After gaining its independence from France, Chad struggled to find its footing. Mismanagement, corruption, conflict and a harsh climate did the country no favors, and Chad has consistently remained one of the poorest countries in Africa.
Over half of Chad’s population lives in poverty; this is partly a result of the harsh geographical conditions. The majority of Chad is covered by desert and for a developing country that depends largely on subsistence farming, this presents a significant challenge. The most successful practice is migratory farming, where herds can move and adapt to changing climate conditions, but even these are severely limited by resources. As well, droughts in the 1970s and 80s aggravated already sub-optimal conditions. Recently, changes in climate have brought lower rainfalls and consistent overuse has led to soil erosion and land degradation. Farmers lack infrastructure, support and resources needed to grow sufficient food.
Geographic isolation, a lack of cultural cohesion and lack of education are all contributors to the problem. Spread out among a huge amount of land, Chad’s citizens are separated by large swaths of land, making it difficult to distribute necessary resources. Most people do not speak either of the country’s official languages (Arabic and French) and 90% of the country is illiterate.
Gender discrimination is also rife in Chad, though women are an essential part of a family’s survival. They are given work outside the home as well as the responsibility of raising a family, tending farms, gathering water, raising children and cooking. Yet they are culturally limited from access to education or training, and marginalized by society. These women are especially vulnerable to the psychological as well as physical effects of poverty.
Chad’s reality is brutal; a large percentage of the population is undernourished and lacks access to education, as well as high levels of food insecurity and infant mortality. Chad is not set to meet the MDGs as a result of poor management and weak planning and implementation.
Chad’s story is not a pretty one, but an important one. It is a reminder of the harsh reality that is daily life in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the amount of work that remains to be done in the region.
– Farahnaz Mohammed