Mauritania Table of Contents
Millet and sorghum were Mauritania's principal crops, followed by rice and corn. Before the 1980s, millet and sorghum accounted for 70 to 80 percent or more of total grain production. Rice production in the 1970s averaged 5 to 10 percent, and corn made up 10 to 25 percent. In the 1980s, rice production grew in importance, as national planning emphasized irrigated agriculture (which favored rice) and a change in dietary habits.
A few other crops were cultivated. Around 10,000 to 15,000 tons of dates were produced annually in the country's oases, mostly for local consumption. During the 1960s, the traditional production of gum arabic (see Glossary) rose to some 5,000 tons a year. By the 1980s, however, production of gum arabic had disappeared. The ill-considered cutting of trees to increase short-term production combined with drought to destroy virtually all of Mauritania's gum-producing acacia trees.
By 1986 farmers working irrigated lands produced about 35 percent of the country's grain crops. Of a potentially irrigable area estimated at 135,000 hectares, only some 13,700 hectares were in production in 1985-86. Most of the irrigated land (about 65 percent) was in large-scale developments (500 hectares or more) centered in Bogué and Kaédi, which were controlled by the government through the National Corporation for Rural Development (Société Nationale pour le Développement Rural--SONADER). The remainder were small-scale operations (less than fifty hectares), developed by a newly active private sector centered mainly in Rosso.
In the 1980s, the government put increased emphasis on developing the rural sector. Government planning strategy under the 1985-88 Economic Recovery Program placed the highest priority on rural development (35 percent of planned investments). Particular attention was to be paid to upgrading existing land and developing new irrigated farming and flood recession agriculture. There were also plans involving Mauritania, Mali, and Senegal to integrate rural development and water and flood control through the Senegal River Development Office (Organisation pour la Mise en Valeur du Fleuve Sénégal--OMVS) as the massive Diama and Manantali dams became fully operational (see Relations with Other African States , ch. 4).
Data as of June 1988