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Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is a landlocked nation in West Africa. It is surrounded by six countries: Mali to the north, Niger to the east, Benin to the south east, Togo and Ghana to the south, and Côte d'Ivoire to the south west.

A 2002 estimate of Burkina Faso's population came in at 12,603,185. Its inhabitants are known as Burkinabè.

Formerly the Republic of Upper Volta, it was renamed on August 4, 1984 by President Thomas Sankara to mean "the land of upright people" (or "upright land") in Mossi and Dioula, the major native languages of the country.

A impoverished country, several hundred thousand farm workers migrate south every year to Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana in search of paid labour.

History

Like all of the west of Africa, Burkina Faso was populated early, notably by hunter-gatherers in the northwestern part of the country (12,000 to 5000 BC), and whose tools (scrapers, chisels and arrowheads) were discovered in 1973. Settlements appeared between 3600 and 2600 BC with farmers, the traces of whose structures leave the impression of relatively permanent buildings.

The use of iron, ceramics and polished stone developed between 1500 and 1000 BC, as well as a preoccupation with spiritual matters, as shown by the burial remains which have been discovered.

Relics of the Dogon are found in the centre-north, north and north west region. They left the area between the 15th and 16th centuries BC to settle in the cliffs of Bandiagara. Elsewhere, the remains of high walls are localised in the southwest of Burkina Faso (as well as in the Côte d'Ivoire), but the people who built them have not yet been definitely identified.

Burkina Faso was a very important economic region for the Songhai Empire during the 15th and 16th centuries. From colony to independence In 1896, the Mossi kingdom of Ouagadougou became a French protectorate after being defeated by French forces. In 1898, the majority of the region corresponding to Burkina Faso today was conquered.

In 1904, these territories were integrated into French West Africa in the heart of the Upper-Senegal-Niger (Haut-Sénégal-Niger) colony. Its inhabitants participated in the First World War in the heart of the battalions of the Senegalese Infantry (Tirailleurs sénégalais).

It was originally administered as part of Côte d'Ivoire colony, but became a separate colony in 1919. On March 1, 1919, François Charles Alexis Édouard Hesling became the first governor of the new colony of Upper-Volta, which was broken up September 5, 1932, being shared between the Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Niger.

On September 4, 1947 Upper-Volta was recreated with its 1932 boundaries. On December 11, 1958, it achieved self-government, and became a republic and member of the Franco-African Community (La Communauté Franco-Africaine).

Full independence was attained in 1960. The country's first military coup occurred in 1966; it returned to civilian rule in 1978. There was another coup, led by Saye Zerbo in 1980, which in turn was overthrown in 1982. A counter-coup was launched in 1983, which left Captain Thomas Sankara in charge.

Politics

President Blaise

Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré

The current president is Blaise Compaoré, who came to power in 1987 after a coup d'état that killed Thomas Sankara.

The constitution of June 2, 1991, established a semi-presidential government with a parliament (Assemblée) which can be dissolved by the President of the Republic, who is elected for a term of 5 years. The year 2000 saw a constitutional amendment reducing the presidential term from 7 to 5 years, which was enforced during the 2005 elections.

- The parliament consists of two chambers: the lower house (l'Assemblée Nationale) and the upper house (la Chambre des Représentants).

There is also a constitutional chamber, composed of ten members, and an economic and social council whose roles are purely consultative.

- The administrative divisions of Burkina Faso are divided into 13 regions, 45 provinces, and 301 departments.

Culture

Burkina drummers - Probably the thing Burkina Faso is most famous for is its music and drumming culture. What a great country to visit if you are interested in learning West African drumming!

As with music, art is also part of the culture of Burkina Faso.

The country hosts the International Arts and Crafts Fair, Ouagadougou, better known by its French name as SIAO, Le Salon International de L'Artisanat de Ouagadougou, one of the most important African handicraft fairs in the world.
Climate

Burkina Faso has a primarily tropical climate with two very distinct seasons: the rainy season with between 24-35 inches (600 and 900 mm) of rainfall, and the dry season during which the harmattan blows, a hot dry wind from the Sahara.

The rainy season lasts approximately 4 months, May/ June to September, and is shorter in the north of the country.
Geography

Burkina FasoThe average altitude is 400 metres (1,300 ft) and the difference between the highest and lowest terrain is no greater than 600 metres (2,000 ft). Burkina Faso is therefore a relatively flat country, with a very few localised exceptions.

Burkina Faso is made up of two major types of countryside:

-The larger part of the country is covered by a peneplain which forms a gently undulating landscape with, in some areas, a few isolated hills, the last vestiges of a precambrian massif.

- The south-west of the country forms a sandstone massif, where the highest peak is found: Ténakourou (749 m, 2,450 ft). The massif is bordered by sheer cliffs up to 150 metres (490 ft.) high.

Hydrography

The country owed its former name of Upper Volta to three rivers which cross it: le Mouhoun (formerly called the Black Volta), le Nakambé (the White Volta) and le Nazinon (the Red Volta).

Le Mouhoun, along with la Comoé which flows to the south west, is the country's only river which flows year-round.

The basin of the Niger River also drains 27% of the country's surface. Its tributaries (le Béli, le Gorouol, le Goudébo and le Dargol) are seasonal streams, and only flow for 4 to 6 months a year but can cause large floods.

The country also contains numerous lakes. The principal lakes are Tingrela, Bam and Dem, and the large ponds of Oursi, Béli, Yomboli, and Markoye.

Water shortages are often a problem, especially in the north of the country.

Economy

Burkina farmers - One of the poorest countries in the world, landlocked Burkina Faso has a high population density, few natural resources, and a fragile soil.

It is ranked as the 28th poorest nation, among other nations such as the Republic of the Congo and Tajikistan, represented numerically in its low GDP per capita income of $1,300.

This can be explained by its population growth and its arid soil. About 90% of the population is engaged in (mainly subsistence) agriculture, which is highly vulnerable to variations in rainfall.

Agriculture represents 32% of its gross domestic product and occupies 80% of the working population. It consists mostly of livestock but also, especially in the south and southwest, of growing sorghum, millet, maize (corn), peanuts, rice, and cotton.

Industry remains dominated by unprofitable government-controlled corporations, most specifically in its mineral exploitation of copper, iron, manganese, and, above all, gold. The effects are corruption and financial disparity. (The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer)

A large part of the economic activity of the country is funded by international aid.

Lack of work causes a high rate of emigration: for example, three million people from Burkina Faso live in Côte d'Ivoire. According to the Central Bank of Western African States (La Banque Centrale des États de l'Afrique de l'Ouest), these migrants send tens of billions of CFA francs back to Burkina Faso each year.

 

Information courtesy of Burkina Faso Tourism

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