Facts About Culture, Geography, and History of Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is a small land-locked country in the West Africa bordered by Ghana and Togo to the south, Benin to the southeast, Niger to the east, Mali to the north and Ivory Coast to the southwest. We have assorted 12 interesting facts about Burkina Faso that will walk you through the strides of this West African territory.
12. It has three main rivers known as the Black, Red, and White Volta’s
Ghana taps its three major rivers from Burkina Faso. These are the Mouhoun or Black Volta, the Nazinon or Red Volta and the Nakambé or White Volta.
The longest of these rivers is the Black Volta, which is a mighty 1,352km long. With these rivers, northern Ghana is amply supplied with fresh water for both domestic consumption and agriculture.
11. It means the “land of the honest men”
Burkina Faso name translates as “Land of the honest men.” The country was previously called “Upper Volta” by the French before President Thomas Sankara changed the name to Burkina Faso. The new name gave the people of the region much pride and continues to do so to this day. Rather than being a geographic pointer, the name Burkina Faso now represents the morals of the people.
10. It became a French protectorate in 1896
Burkina Faso was once a French colony first known as ‘French Protectorate’ and later on ‘Upper Volta’. The French first colonized it in 1896 and continued with this colonization until 1960 when Upper Volta became independent with Maurice Yaméogo as its first President.
However, prior to 2015, Burkina Faso had been politically unstable until the overthrow of the long-serving military strongman Blaise Compaore through civilian uprising.
9. It was populated by hunter gatherers
The northwestern part of today’s Burkina Faso was populated early by hunter-gatherers between 14,000 and 5,000 BC. Some of the earliest tools used in those days such as scrapers, chisels and arrowheads were discovered in 1973.
Farmers started to create settlements between 3600 and 2600 BC. This is one of the oldest recorded archaeological findings in Sub-Saharan Africa which proves that Burkina Faso is one of the oldest human settlements in West Africa.
8. Burkina Faso has fertile land
Burkina Faso land is green in the south, with forests and fruit trees and desert in the north. Burkina Faso is Africa’s leading producer of Cotton in Africa. Apart from cotton, most of Burkinabe practice subsistence farming with staple foods being predominant. Millet, sorghum, maize, rice, peanuts, and cassava are some of the main crops being cultivated.
However, despite the rich fertile lands in the south, and pastoral lands in the north, Burkina Faso is increasingly becoming food insecure due to population pressure and lack of modern farming practices.
7. Thomas Sankara, the former president, wrote the country’s national anthem
Regarded as Africa’s Che Guevara, Sankara composed the current lyrics and music of the national anthem of Burkina Faso which was adopted in 1974. Thomas Sankara was an avid guitar player and a big fan of jazz and formed a number of bands. He believed that music was a key part of cultural development and used music to spread word of his revolution.
Apart from him being a lover of music Sankara was a great preacher of Africa’s renaissance through self-sufficiency. He abhorred opulence by African despots that led their countries to be more entangled into the yokes of neocolonialism. He pursued zero-foreign-loans policy where the country increasingly weaned itself off the World Bank and IMF which he considered neo-colonial institutions.
6. The national anthem means the Anthem of Victory
Le Ditanye or Anthem of Victory is the name given to the National anthem of Burkina Faso. This National Anthem captures the victory over colonialism and a focus on the brave new future. The following is an excerpt of some of its lines:
- The history of an entire people,
- And one single night has launched its triumphal march.
- Towards the horizon of good fortune.
- In the acquisition of liberty and progress.
- Motherland or death, we shall conquer.
5. The White Stallion is the country’s national symbol
National symbol of Burkina Faso is a white stallion. Particular groups are hugely proud of horse-riding – the Fulani people have a saying: “a horse is your wife, your car, your colleague, your best friend”.
The people of Burkina Faso are often called the “cowboys of West Africa” due to their love of horse riding. Horse ridding is a common phenomenon of the desert community in the Sahel region of Africa.
4. Burkina Faso has a very young population
More than 65% of the population of Burkina Faso is under the age of 25. This presents a long-term economic opportunity for the country as there will be a large and cheap workforce able to bring prosperity to the nation.
However, with poor planning and lack of commensurate economic growth, this turns into a curse rather than blessing as strains on land, education and healthcare, pushes more into dire straits of survival.
3. French is the official language, but native African languages are spoken too
French, a reminder of the effects of cultural colonization of Burkina Faso, is widely spoken among the educated and elites as the official language. However, the bulk of the rural folks and the uneducated speak close to 68 different languages of the Sudanic family. As such, indigenous languages have a 90% prevalence in the entire country.
2. Rural areas have very little electricity
Though Thomas Sankara had great dreams of enlightening his country through rapid socio-economic transformation, his dream became dimmed by the bullet that claimed his life.
And so did the light remain dimmed as Burkina Faso’s electrification remains one of the lowest in the entire Africa with only 56% of urban areas being lighted up while a meager 1% of electrification going to the poor rural folks that ought to have been the first beneficiaries of Sankare’s revolution.
Population with electricity in Burkina Faso is 56% in urban areas and 1% in rural areas. Nonetheless, the effort to spread electrification, more so, by adopting renewable energy strategy has picked up in rural areas.
1. Subsistence farming is common and over 80% of the population does it
About 80% of the population of Burkina Faso is engaged in subsistence farming and cotton is the main cash crop. During the summer months between June to September, many of the villages are deserted as people head to the fields to farm.
Alongside cotton, the main agricultural exports are sesame seeds, beans and their delicious mangoes. There are so many mango trees in Burkina Faso that lots of the fruit goes to waste and the country is looking at ways to preserve the mangoes.
Burkina Faso, “the land of honest people” has a lot to offer the world. From its cotton farmlands to the horse rides, and from the craftworks to the rich cultural heritage, there is a lot that awaits you on your visit to this land of Thomas Sankara.