Burkina Faso

With better cultivation methods, Burkina Faso can achieve higher crop yields that will stop malnutrition and become more resistant to climate change.




Official language



274.200 qkm


ca. 18 Mio.

Population growth

2,9 % (52.506 Personen pro Jahr)

Rural population

12,7 Mio. (70 % of the total population)

Gross domestic product

11,1 Mrd. US-Dollar

Per capita annual income

660 US-Dollar

Share of agriculture in GDP

32,9 %

Severity of hunger according to the Global Hunger Index

serious (value: 31 / trend: -6.1)

Proportion of undernourished in the total population

20,7 %

Human Development Index

Index: 0,402 / Rang: 183 von 188

Proportion of the population living on less than USD 1.25 a day

44,5 %

Landlocked country on the edge of the desert

The fact that there are more than 60 ethnic groups living peacefully together in Burkina Faso, with about the same number of indigenous languages, is immediately evident from the bilingual name: Burkina is Mòoré and faso comes from the Dioula language. Translated, it means "land of upright people". This small landlocked country at the edge of the Sahara is still one of the poorest countries in the world. Only five of the 188 countries studied rank worse in the United Nations Human Development Index. About 45 percent of the population live on less than USD 1.25 a day.

The country's geographic location is a challenge: the fickle climate leaves a mark on the country's agricultural sector, which provides a living to about 85 percent of the population, more than 15 million people. Most small farmers work in rural village communities and use traditional methods of cultivation to feed their families. Some products are sold locally, and very few goods are exported. Agricultural revenues account for one third of the gross domestic product (GDP). Although gold is now being mined in considerable quantities, the country's poorest do not share in the profits. More than 20 percent of the population is undernourished, many of them children.


Cultivation and eating habits

In most regions, millet is the most important basic food. Different varieties of millet are cultivated in different regions, such as sorghum, red and white as well as pearl millet. The people make it into , a flour porridge which they eat with different sauces at nearly all meals. In the fertile southern part of the country, the people also grow corn, rice, cassava and sweet potatoes, as well as vegetables like tomatoes, onions and okra. Mangos and papayas grow in the tropical areas. Most of these products are grown for the farmers' own consumption, with the surplus bartered in local markets or sold.


Around a third of agricultural land is already degraded.


Burkina Faso's rural society traditionally consists of farmers and shepherds. The shepherds raise cattle and goats, with which they wander across the pastures in the north. But their meat seldom makes its way to the table in Burkina Faso: some of the cattle and animal skins, for example, are exported to the Ivory Coast. However, chickens can be found everywhere, and grilled chicken is a favorite dish in the cities.

The country's leading agricultural export is cotton, which is grown in the southern part of the country. However, cotton is not a stable source of revenue for Burkina Faso due to fluctuating prices in the world market prices. Secondary agricultural exports include sesame and nuts, such as peanuts, karita nuts and cashews.


Challenges for people and the soil

Weather conditions are worsening as a result of climate change, with monsoon-like rainfall alternating droughts over the years, destroying the already thin layer of fertile soil. In addition, the overcultivation of millet and cotton is exhausting the soil. Around a third of agricultural land is already degraded and will have to be improved before crops can grow again. Moreover, the mining of precious metals such as gold and manganese is polluting the environment and destroying valuable farmland.

Burkina Faso has yet to exploit its full agricultural potential. The village communities and farmers lack technical equipment and the ability to apply more robust methods of cultivation while protecting the soil. These factors, as well as the strong dependence on the weather, quickly result in crop failures and an unstable supply of basic food. As a result, there are increasingly frequent conflicts over resources like water and land in this fast-growing society.  

In addition, many people of working age are moving to the cities, especially the capital city of Ouagadougou. Women, children and adolescents are often left behind to work the land. In many villages, they come together to form self-help groups and cooperatives.


NEGOTIATED LAND RIGHTS In West Africa, the right to use individual plots of land is often not put down in writing, but is rather verbally bequeathed or conveyed, or assigned by tribal leaders. The resulting conflicts between wandering shepherds and farmers in Burkina Faso are almost always resolved peacefully within the village communities. To this end, arrangements are made which are beneficial to both sides. For example, the farmers might be allowed to work the field during the rainy season and the shepherds allowed to graze their cattle in the dry season.

Burkina Faso’s goal:

protect farmland

In recent years, the government has improved the supply of water and reduced the number of undernourished children by more than a third. In the coming years, the government would like to increase agricultural yields by providing farmers with better seed and fertilizers, as well as the necessary machinery.

With assistance from various international programs, Burkina Faso is also trying to make degraded land arable again, stop soil erosion and teach its people sustainable methods of cultivation. With improved agricultural practices and greater crop diversity, small farmers will be able to mitigate the effects of climate change and weather fluctuations somewhat so as to provide an adequate and balanced diet for Burkina Faso's families in the future.



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