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Djibouti, situated in the Horn of Africa, is one of the smallest countries of the continent with a total area of 23 200 km². It is bordered in the east by the Gulf of Aden, in the south-east by Somalia, in the south and west by Ethiopia and in the north by Eritrea.

The cultivable area has been estimated at 6 000 ha, which is only 0.26% of the total area. The cultivated area was 407 ha in 1989, which is 7% of the cultivable area. Agriculture is concentrated in the southern part of the country, mainly in the Djibouti and Dikhil districts. These two districts cover about 34% of the country while they contain 75 % of the cultivated areas (Figure 1).

The total population is 577 000 (1995), of which only 17% is rural. The average population density is 25 inhabitants/km². It varies from about 3 in the north to over 400 in the Djibouti district where the capital is located. The annual demographic growth rate was estimated at 3.5% over the period 19801991. The economy of the country is mainly based on services, which accounted for 63% of GDP in 1982, while agriculture accounted for 6%. In 1991, agriculture accounted for only 3 % of GDP.

TABLE 1 - Basic statistics and population

Physical areas:
Area of the country 1995 2 320 000 ha
Cultivable area 1989 6 000 ha
Cultivated area 1989 407 ha
- annual crops 1989 357 ha
- permanent crops 1989 50 ha
Total population 1995 577 000 inhabitants
Population density 1995 25 inhab./km²
Rural population 1995 17 %
Water supply coverage:
Urban population 1990 50 %
Rural population 1990 21 %

Figure 1 - Distribution of the cultivated area over the districts (total: 407 ha in 1990)

TABLE 2 - Water: sources and use

Renewable water resources:
Average precipitation   147 mm/yr
  3.4 km³/yr
Internal renewable water resources   0.3 km³/yr
Total (actual) renewable water resources 1995 0.3 km³/yr
Dependency ratio 1995 0 %
Total (actual) renewable water resources per inhabitant 1995 520 m³/yr
Total dam capacity   - 106
Water withdrawal:
- agricultural 1985 6.5 106 m³/yr
-domestic 1985 1 0 106 m³/yr
- industrial 1985 0.0 106 m³/yr
Total water withdrawal   7.5 106 m³/yr
per inhabitant 1985 20 m³/yr
as % of total {actual) renewable water resources 2.5 %  
Other water withdrawal   - 106 m³/yr
Average groundwater depletion   - 106 m³/yr
Wastewater - Non-conventional water sources:
- produced wastewater   - 106 m³/yr
- treated wastewater   - 106 m³/yr
- reused treated wastewater   - 106 m³/yr
Desalinated water 1990 0.1 106 m³/yr



The climate of Djibouti is classified as arid to extremely arid. The average temperature varies between 25°C in December and 35°C in July. Average annual rainfall is 147 mm and varies from 50 mm in the north-east to 300 mm in the region west of Tadjoura. Occasions of extreme rainfall recorded since 1901 were 9.5 mm in 1980 and 693 mm in 1989. Because of the low annual rainfall and its irregular distribution there are no perennial rivers and surface runoff takes place during one or two days only after relatively heavy rainfall.

Water resources

The hydrographic system can be divided into two zones, one draining to the sea (45%) and one draining to the plains in the west of the country (55%). Internal renewable water resources are estimated at 300 million m³/year. The only external surface water resources (about 2 km³/year) come from Ethiopia, through the border lake Abbe in the west of the country. However, since it is a salt lake, this resource cannot be put into beneficial use.

Groundwater recharge is limited to the infiltration of water in the wadis and is closely linked to the frequency of floods, the infiltration conditions in the wadis, the hydraulic contact with the substratum as well as to the permeability of the substratum. The groundwater resources are rather difficult to prospect and extract. The sediment formations represent only 10% of the total area of the country, the remaining parts consisting of volcanic rock formations. In general, groundwater used for irrigation causes problems because of excessive salinity, even in the alluvial layers. Only in the north-western part of the country is the ionic content of the water below the acceptable limit for irrigation purposes. High boron contents occur most frequently. The water present in the alluvial layers, close to the surface, can be used for small-scale irrigation. Total renewable groundwater resources in the Djibouti district are estimated at between 10 and 21 million m³/year. In 1985, total water withdrawal was 7.5 million m³, of which about 6.5 million m³ for agricultural purposes (Figure 2).

TABLE 3 - Irrigation and drainage

Irrigation potential 1995 1 000 ha
1. Full or partial control irrigation: equipped area 1989 674 ha
- surface irrigation   - ha
- sprinkler irrigation   - ha
- micro-irrigation   - ha
% of area irrigated from groundwater 1989 100 %
% of area irrigated from surface water 1989 0 %
% of area irrigated from non-conventional sources 1989 0 %
% of equipped area actually irrigated 1989 60.4 %
2. Spate irrigation area   - ha
3. Equipped wetland and inland valley bottoms (i.v.b)   - ha
Total irrigation (1 + 2 + 3) 1989 674 ha
- as % of cultivated area   166 %
4. Flood recession cropping area   - ha
Total water managed area (1 + 2 + 3 +4) 1989 674 ha
- as % of cultivated area   166 %
- increase over last 10 years 1980-90 270 %
- power irrigated area as % of water managed area   - %
Full or partial control irrigation schemes: Criteria
Large-scale schemes > - ha   - ha
Medium-scale schemes   - ha
Small-scale schemes < - ha   - ha
Total number of households in irrigation 1989 1158  
Irrigated crops:      
Total irrigated grain production 1989 4 tons
as % of total grain production 1989 100 %
Harvested crops under irrigation (full or partial control) 1989 407 ha
- permanent crops: total 1989 50 ha
- annual crops: total 1989 357 ha
. vegetables 1989 355 ha
. cereals (maize and sorghum) 1989 2 ha
Drainage - Environment:
Drained area   - ha
as % of cultivated area   - %
- drained areas in full or partial control irrigated areas   - ha
- drained areas in equipped wetland and i.v.b   - ha
- other drained areas   - ha
- total drained area with subsurface drains   - ha
- total drained area with surface drains   - ha
Flood-protected area   - ha
Area salinized by irrigation   - ha
Population affected by water-borne diseases   - inhabitants


Crops can only be grown under irrigation, which in general takes place in the cooler season from the middle of November till the middle of May. In summer, only gourds (cucurbicatees) and palm trees are irrigated. They represent a small area compared to the other crops (mainly vegetables) (Figure 3).

In 1982, there were 450 agricultural households in the whole of the country cultivating an area of 110 ha, or an average of 2 250 m² per household. In 1989, 1 158 agricultural households were cultivating 407 ha, or an average of 3 515 m² per household (Figure 4). The total area equipped for irrigation was 674 ha, but only 65% of the equipped area was cultivated on average each year.

Agricultural water comes from shallow wells, tubewells or springs. In 1986, the cost of water extraction from tubewells was about $US 0.28/m³. For shallow wells it was about $US O.11/m³.


Agricultural development is organized in three zones covered by three rural development programmes benefiting from the support of technicians at regional level and from the different services within the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development at the centre. The regional support staff is in charge of the execution of the technical programmes fixed by the four central services:

Figure 2 - Water withdrawal (total: 7.5 million m³ in 1 985)

Figure 3 - Irrigated crops f/p (total: 407 ha in 1989)

Figure 4 - Evolution of the irrigated area



Agriculture in Djibouti is not possible without irrigation. However, it could be improved in several ways:


Bundesanstalt fur Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe. 1982. Inventaire et mise en valeur des ressources en eau de la République de Djibouti. Report prepared by W. Müller, for project No 78.2233.1, Cooperation hydrogéologique allemande. Hannover, Allemagne.

Direction rationale de la statistique, Ministère du commerce, des transports et du tourisme. Annuaire statistique de Djibouti. Résultats de 1990.

FAO. 1986. Compte rendu final du projet FAO TCPIDJI/4505, Renforcement du Service de ['agriculture et des forêts. Rome.

IGADD [Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development]. 1990. Forum on environmental protection and development of subregional strategy to combat desertification, 1990.

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