The cultivation of food crops occupies 86 percent of the economically active population of Mali.

Agriculture also contributes more to the gross domestic product than any other sector. Crops grown in Mali depend almost entirely on irrigation or flooding from the Niger River and its tributaries. The main crops are millet, rice, sorghum, corn, and sugarcane. Livestock raising, principally in the north, also makes a significant contribution to the food supply. Livestock are also exported. The country has millions of cattle, goats, and sheep, although herds were decimated in a drought of the mid-1980s. Mali is one of the major producers and exporters of cotton in Africa, and 414,965 tons of cotton were harvested in 2007.

Fish from the Niger are important to the diet of the people living along the river. The fishing industry produces a surplus, and these fish are dried and smoked for local use and for export.

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