Improving agricultural production using river weirs

Project description

Title: Programme for the management of river weirs in eastern Chad (GERTS)
Commissioned by: Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)
Financed by: Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and Agence française de Développement (AFD)
Country: Chad
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Production, Irrigation and Agricultural Equipment
Overall term:  2012 to 2022

Ein Foto einer Flussschwelle.


Chad is vulnerable to severe environmental phenomena, such as fluctuating precipitation and insufficient irrigation, as well as desertification and deforestation. The Sahel regions of the country are particularly affected, including the valleys which are normally fertile areas. It is all the more crucial to exploit the potential of these valleys for agricultural production since the region suffers from water shortages.

78 per cent of Chad’s population make their living directly or indirectly from agriculture. Their livelihoods are threatened not only by drought, but also by the overexploitation of natural resources. This is reducing vegetation cover and, combined with soil erosion in low-lying areas, leading to a fall in water absorption by the ground. This accelerates rainwater run-off into the valleys. As a result, water reserves and fertile soil are being lost, and in years of low rainfall there are frequent shortages of food.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has therefore made agriculture and food security in Chad a priority. The SDC is funding initiatives aimed at improving the management of rainwater run-off, particularly in the Sahel-Saharan zone (Batha, Ennedi East, Ennedi West and Wadi Fira). One such initiative is this project, which is already entering its third phase and receives additional funding from the Agence Française de Développement (AFD).


Food security is improved in the regions of Batha, Ennedi East, Ennedi West and Wadi Fira.

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The project has been building weirs since 2012 to improve and develop barren valleys in the Sahel region. The weirs diffuse the rainwater, thereby reducing soil erosion. The water runs off more slowly and seeps into the soil. This is helping build up groundwater reserves that can be used by agriculture.

The project applies an integrated approach: the actual work of building the weirs is combined with socio-economic measures that enable the local population to benefit from them. The activities can be broken down into three types:

  1. Enterprises, consultancy firms and economic interest groups receive support to ensure quality planning, design and maintenance of weirs.
  2. The project works together with farmers to raise farm production and income for the local population and to improve the management of natural resources. Access to water and knowledge through good agricultural practices contributes to the food security of families and village communities
  3. The programme disseminates the weir method to make it part of ministerial and academic programmes and other development projects.

The project involves key local stakeholders in the measures. For example, the activities are carried out not only for the beneficiaries, but also in consultation with them. The village communities are given the capability of collectively using and maintaining weirs. This is to ensure sustainable management of the valleys and long-term use of the weirs.

Most of the farmers are women, who are responsible for ploughing, sowing, weeding and harvesting. For this reason, the project has launched several initiatives to ensure that the women not only benefit from the project’s impact but also play a role in achieving its objectives. In addition, the project makes sure that the activities mitigate the environmental and social risks. To this end, it holds training courses on good practices for the extraction, storage and use of water.


By November 2018, eleven valleys had been equipped with a total of 64 weirs. The rise in groundwater levels is measurable, and as a result wells contain water for longer.

The amount of feed available has increased significantly. Depending on the region, grass now grows on grazing land for a longer period and sometimes even throughout the entire year.

According to a survey carried out in four valleys in the Wadi Fira region, the project has boosted vegetable production. The number of people who grow vegetables has risen by more than 18 per cent. Amongst women, this increase even amounts to 40 per cent. 63 per cent of the arable land is used by women and disadvantaged households.

Millet yields have doubled, while vegetable yields have grown 23 per cent, and there have also been significant increases for rocket, onion and garlic. The results of the aforementioned survey show that a quarter of disadvantaged women and households increased their earnings from vegetable growing by almost 14 per cent.

Local principles and management plans for water catchment areas have been created in the municipalities.

The stakeholders involved in construction management have basic texts and hold meetings. They use a contribution system to cover maintenance and depreciation of the weirs, which are all in good condition.

The project empowered six Chadian consulting firms to plan weirs and monitor building work at construction sites.

Last updated: March 2021

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Additional information