Burkina FasoBurkina Faso is a country in western Africa.

Burkina Faso, or Burkina, a landlocked country in western Africa. It lies south of the Sahara and is bordered by Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Cte d'Ivoire. The area is 105,869 square miles (274,200 km2)—about that of the state of Colorado. The name Burkina Faso, adopted in 1984, means "Land of Honest People." The previous name was Upper Volta.

The land consists of plains and low plateaus that average roughly 700 to 1,100 feet (210 to 340 m) above sea level. The highest area is in the southwest near the Mali border, where an elevation of 2,460 feet (750 m) is reached. Much of Burkina Faso dips gently toward the south and is drained by the Black Volta (Mouhoun), Red Volta (Nazinon), and White Volta (Nakambe) rivers, which unite in Ghana to form the Volta River.

The climate is tropical and is marked by three distinct seasons: warm and dry (November-February), hot and dry (March-May), and hot and wet (June-October). Temperatures often rise well above 100° F. (38° C.) during the hottest months and rarely drop below 60° F. (16° C.) during the coolest. A hot, dry, dust-laden wind, called a harmattan, occasionally blows in from the Sahara during the dry months. Annual rainfall, which is highly variable from year to year, averages from less than 10 inches (250 mm) in the north to as much as 40 inches (1,000 mm) in the south.

Northern Burkina Faso is sparsely covered by steppe vegetation and is part of the Sahel region of Africa, where devastating droughts and famines periodically occur. Savannas prevail in the south.

Economy

Burkina Faso is one of the poorest and least industrialized countries in Africa. It is predominantly agricultural, with subsistence farming and livestock raising prevalent. Production depends largely on the amount of rainfall.

The chief subsistence crops are sorghum, millet, rice, and corn. Cash crops include cotton, which is the leading export, peanuts, and shea nuts. Cattle, goats, and sheep, which are raised mainly in the northern and eastern parts of the country, are the most numerous livestock.

Manufacturing consists chiefly of making simple household and consumer goods, including textiles, soap, cooking oils, beverages, flour, and shoes. Production comes mainly from Ouagadougou, the capital, Bobo-Dioulasso, Koudougou, and Banfora, all of which are located on the nation's only railway.

The country's mineral resources, notably gold and manganese, are potentially important sources of wealth. At present, however, mining is little developed.

The railway runs southwestward from Kaya to the port of Abidjan, Ivory Coast—some 700 miles (1,130 km) away. Hard-surfaced roads link the larger cities and provide access to adjacent countries. The main airport, at Ouagadougou, provides regional flights and limited international service.

Burkina Faso's basic currency unit is the CFA franc.

The People

The two most important cities are Ouagadougou, the capital, and Bobo-Dioulasso. Most of the country's people are of African ancestry. The Mossi people, in the north, make up about half of the population. Other groups are the Bobo, in the southwest, and the Gourma (or Gourounsi), in the east. Many people are animists; about 60 per cent, Muslims; and about 25 per cent, Christians.

The official language is French, but it is spoken only by the educated elite. More, spoken by the Mossi, is the principal indigenous tongue. Primary school begins at age six and lasts seven years. Secondary school lasts five years. The leading institution of higher learning is the University of Ouagadougou (founded in 1974). The literacy rate is around 20 per cent.

Government

Under the constitution of 1991, the head of state and government is the president, who is elected to a five-year term. Members of the legislature, called the National Assembly, are elected to five-year terms. The 111 members of the National Assembly are elected by the people. Government operations are handled by the president with the help of the Council of Ministers.