Country Listing

Chad Table of Contents




Cotton being unloaded from a truck in Pala, Mayo-Kebbi Prefecture
Courtesy Michael R. Saks

Background of Cotton Cultivation

Cotton is an indigenous crop to southern Chad. In 1910 the French colonial administration organized market production on a limited scale under the direction of the military governor. By 1920 the colonial administration was promoting the large-scale production of cotton for export. The French saw cotton as the only exploitable resource for the colony and as an effective means of introducing a cash economy into the area. Indeed, the elaboration of colonial administration went hand in hand with the extension of cotton production throughout the region.

France's motives were clear: it sought to ensure a source of raw materials for its home industries and a protected market for its exports abroad. France also intended that taxes derived from commercial ventures within the colonies would offset the expenses of the colonial administration. Therefore, customs duties on cotton exports from Chad, then a part of French Equatorial Africa (Afrique Equatoriale Franšaise--AEF; see Glossary), were paid to the governor general at Brazzaville (in contemporary Congo), as were duties on exports from other colonies under regional administration. Revenues from a head tax were paid in cash locally and went directly to the lieutenant governor of the colony. Not surprisingly, virtually the only means of earning the money to pay the tax was by the sale of cotton to the French.

In 1928 exploitation of cotton within the colony was placed in the hands of Cotonfran, a private company. Under the terms of the contract between the colonial administration and Cotonfran, the administration maintained a certain quantity of production by the villages, and Cotonfran bought at least 80 percent of that production. The cotton was ginned locally, but no further transformation was permitted; all the cotton fiber was then exported to France.

The colonial administration fixed the quantity of cotton produced and the price paid to the peasant producer on the basis of calculations furnished by Cotonfran of costs and expectations for the price of cotton on the world market. France reorganized village administration by replacing traditional chiefs with individuals more amenable to the colonial power, which assured the proper cultivation of the cotton crop and the collection of taxes. This system included forced labor and the subordination of growing food crops to cotton.

Data as of December 1988