At a glance
62% of the population lives from rural activities (76% of the poorest). However, Mauritania's agricultural potential is limited. Its vast surface area is 76% Saharan desert, with the remaining one-quarter belonging to the Sahelian domain, half of which is divided on one side by the Saharan-Sahelian zone, an extensive livestock zone, and on the other by the Sahelian zone, which is also the country's main agro-pastoral zone. Agricultural potential is unevenly distributed across the country: the four southern wilayas (Trarza, Brakna, Gorgol and Guidimakha) account for 59 percent of the cultivable area and almost all of the irrigable potential over 12 percent of the national territory. These four wilayas, as well as Assaba, are among those with the highest incidence of poverty at the national level, all of them above 50%.
Because of the concentration of agricultural and pastoral activities, these same wilayas are also the most sensitive to the degradation and impact of climate change. Approximately 44% of the agricultural potential (220,000 ha in the Diéri, Bas-fonds and Walo) is highly dependent on rainfall, which is irregular and poorly distributed. National production remains largely insufficient and the country has to import nearly 70% of its food needs (63% for cereal needs). The country is only self-sufficient in red meat production. The sylvo-pastoral potential is important (1,380,000 hectares, or 13% of the national territory), but also largely handicapped by pastoral overloads and deficiencies in pastoral hydraulics. Livestock farming remains a fundamental pillar of food security in Mauritania, giving rise to a form of precautionary savings, also as a form of currency, and ensuring a significant nutritional intake, particularly through milk products (staple food for the population both among pastoralists and farmers).