Country study Burkina Faso 



In Burkina Faso, the determining human factors can be summarised in the following terms: high population growth, irregular distribution of population density with high rates in some parts of the country; the highest rates are found in the provinces of Kadiogo, Houet, Kouritenga, Oubritenga, Yatenga, Comoé, etc. Burkina Faso is subject to important internal and external population migrations. The population is characterised by an important ethnic diversity (sixty in total) and an important inter-mixing.


The population of Burkina Faso is 9 190 000 inhabitants according to the population census conducted in 1991 (OUEDRAOGO N. A., 1997), with an annual growth rate of 2.63%. The resident population in 1985 was 7 964 705 inhabitants. Compared with that of 1991, it increased by 15% in six (6) years. Considering the importance of the Burkinabè community living abroad (more than 2 million), we can infer that the country comprises more than 10 000 000 inhabitants.

According to the Atlas Jeune Afrique, the distribution of the Burkinabè population shows some disparities ranging from 11 inhabitants per km2 (provinces of Oudalan, Gourma, Tapoa) to 122 inhabitants per km2 (province of Kouritenga). The average density for all the country is 33 inhabitants per km2. However, the centre of the country called the Mossi land experiences a high population concentration, which led to an overexploitation of natural resources resulting in the degradation of the environment and a loss of biological diversity. The main big urban centres are : Ouagadougou, Bobo-Dioulasso, Ouahigouya, Koudougou, Banfora. Map 9 below gives an idea about the distribution of the population. The State is trying to solve the population problem through a family education Programme.

Map 9: Population density according to district per km2 (INSD, 1985. Census)


In Burkina Faso, there are about sixty coexisting ethnic groups predominated by the Mossi, Fulani and Bobo-Dioula ethnic groups. The main economic activity of the Fulani is livestock raising, while the majority of the rest of the peasant population constitutes farmers. But more and more we are experiencing a combination of both activities by the former as well as the latter because of the climatic variations. Table 3 shows the distribution of the main ethnic groups according to their importance in percentage of the total population. Three national languages are widely spoken in the country. They are in rank of order the More, Dilua and Fulfuldé (Fulani) languages

Table 3: Principal ethnic groups of Burkina Faso

Ethnic groups %
Mossi  48%
Fulani  10%
Lobi  7%
Samo  7%
Bobo  7%
Sénoufo  6%
Gourounssi  5%
Gourmantché  5%
Bissa  5%

Source: J.J. Kessler et C. Geerling, 1994


The population of Burkina Faso experiences an important migration at both internal and external levels. The average ratio between internal and external migrations is as follows: out 100 migrant people, 71.2 % migrate inside the country and 28.8% abroad.

External migrations occur towards those countries where labour demand is high. It is actually difficult to give precise figures of Burkinabès living abroad.

Internal migrations occur towards both urban centres (rural exodus) in search of employment and from some rural areas towards other areas that are relatively prosperous for agricultural activities (rural migrations). 
Rural migrations occur as follows:

  • individual or collective departures occurring from usually infertile and overpopulated regions (e. g. : the central plateau or Mossi land) towards more fertile and hardly exploited areas; the main host provinces are those of Houet, Mouhoun, Gourma, Tapoa, Kossi and Sissili;
  • spontaneous departures towards places where there are real possibilities of earning more substantial incomes (e. g. : gold sites), noticed in the provinces of Sanmatenga, Passoré, Séno and Soum;
  • State organised migrations towards areas developed for agricultural exploitation; they concern the developed plain of the Sourou province and the plain of the Kompienga and Bagré dam and the Kou valley.

The settlement of populations in these areas is anarchic. However, as far as organised migrations are concerned, the National Office in charge of Land Development (ONAT) is trying to organise the settlement of migrants.

The growth rates of migrations in host provinces between 1975 and 1985 were as follows : 88% for the Houet province, 44% for Mouhoun, 73% for the Tapoa, 64% for the Kossi and 106% for the Sissili (J.J. Kessler et C. Geerling, 1994).


According to OUEDRAOGO N., 1997, three land systems which coexisted in Burkina Faso can be distinguished. They are as follows: customary land system, colonial land system and post-colonial land system. The customary land system

The customary land system is almost the same everywhere in Burkina Faso. It is based on the collective ownership of land. The collective ownership of land is exercised by the land custodian (known as Tengsoba for the Mossi, Tarfolo for the Sénoufo, Susunnbaso tinibaso for the Bwaba etc. (OUEDRAOGO S. 1993). In all customs the land custodian is the closest descendant of the first settler. In this capacity, he administers the land patrimony of the group in the interest of all the community. He distributes land or he authorises land use, following the indispensable rites, by households and individuals that require it and in accordance with their needs. Thus, the applicant acquires a user right, which must not be mistaken for ownership right in the Western sense of the term. However, after the death of the applicant his heirs will settle and exploit the same land without the land custodian intervening anew. This land is available for the whole community for any possible use in case no heir claims it. Land is given provisionally to strangers (non-natives) even if this provision may be permanent. Therefore the right accorded to the stranger is precarious, hence the notion of land insecurity for migrants. In this case, land is simply lent, often following royalties in kind or performances of various services. Security imperatives require that the applicant be first socially integrated. However, except in rare cases, land cannot be refused to an applicant according customary law. Therefore the customary land system is complex in practice.

At the economic and social levels, it must be acknowledged that the customary land system, with all its utilisation nuances, opposes creative investments or dissuades them through the almost permanent insecurity as far as individual use is concerned. In this system, land is not given to those who have the necessary means to develop it, but to those who won the confidence of the owning social group, and what is more, on a provisional basis. The colonial land system

This system is essentially based on private ownership while making provision for a public estate. Private estate is acquired through purchase, exchange, gifts or legacies, etc. Public estate is made up of natural properties such as hills, rivers, natural or artificial lakes (roads, artificial water bodies, etc.). This system was resisted to by the customary land system. The post-colonial land system

The land system in force now is based on the agrarian and land reform (RAF), adopted in 1984, which grants user rights to individuals and moral entities.

It makes provision for a national land including all the lands within the borders of Burkina Faso, no matter their former status or legal systems. State property is inalienable, unseizable and imprescriptible. In addition to ownership right, the State assigned itself that of management. In this way, it defines rights for groups and individuals. It should be pointed out that the settlement and exploitation of rural lands by peasants for subsistence are free.

The RAF so designed shatters the mystic aura of land and takes away from peasants their references and customary value systems by leading them to practise new farming techniques (protection and restoration of soils, fertilisation, etc.). This law particularly aimed at making land available to those willing to develop it, and at organising the rational management of this resource which has become in the end scarce in Burkina Faso.

Therefore, this land system aims at favouring the development of productive agricultural forces. However, it does not encourage populations to make sustainable investments and a lot of resistance to its enforcement can be noticed.


Many regional divisions of Burkina Faso were made by the technical services of ministerial departments (MARA, MEE, MAT...) following precise specific objectives. The agricultural zones described here are those determined by INERA.


It covers the majority of the Burkinabè Sahel and includes the Sahel provinces of Oudalan and Soum. It is the driest region of the country. The rainy season, which lasts approximately three months extends from June to September. Rains are erratic and the total rainfall in a year is hardly more than 600 mm. Evapotranspiration there is very high and is combined with high amplitudes of temperatures during the day and at night.

By tradition, it is a livestock zone. Millet is the main crop, while white sorghum comes second. There are almost no rotation crops. Fallowing decisions are dependent on the displacement of animal habitat or penning (KAFANDO P., 1995). Night penning of animals on plots after harvests constitutes the main form of soil fertilisation. The inputs of chemical fertiliser are negligible. Animal traction, which has been introduced by vulgarisation agents, is not yet generalised. However, in the Soum there are a few hitches with donkeys and camels. Usually agricultural work is manual in this region where the margin of manoeuvre of producers is narrow as far as the choice of cropping and production system is concerned.


It covers the following provinces: Sanmatenga, Namentenga, Oubritenga, Boulkiemdé, Sanguié, Kadiogo, Ganzourgou, Bazèga, Zoundwégo, Sissili and Nahouri. It extends to almost all the central plateau, with an annual rainfall ranging from 600 mm in the north to 900 mm in the south. Unequally distributed, rains spread over 4 to 6 months. Agriculture in this region is mainly rain fed.

Due to its high population density, this region experiences serious problems of environmental degradation resulting from the overexploitation of its meagre resources. The population pressure in the centre is such that there is practically almost no fallow anymore. Therefore, soil fertility is not restored, accelerating in this way its degradation and aggravating the adverse effects of wind and hydric erosion. The inputs of fertilisers to make up for and restore crop exploitations are weak. This system of land use gradually leads to soil depletion, hence the notion of land overexploitation.

Farming systems in the regions are based on cereals like in the east. Sorghum and millet come first, i.e. about 80 % acreage, followed by groundnuts and quite far behind maize.

The introduction of animal traction dates back from the 1960's. In general, the use of traction equipment is limited to ploughing before planting, particularly for cash crops (groundnuts and cotton). It cannot be said that animal traction is a characteristic of this region as most farming activities are still done manually. Local varieties of sorghum and millet are still preponderant. Recourse to improved seeds concerns only groundnut and rice.

As a result of the many water bodies in the central regions, market gardening is developing. Since it is an out of season activity, producers have the opportunity to get to work and increase their incomes.


It includes the provinces of Bam, Passoré, Yatenga and Sourou. This region is characterised by a rainfall, which varies between 600 mm in the north to 800 mm in the south. The dominant economic activity is livestock raising, with, however, animal numbers less than those of the Sahel and the central regions. But the degradation of the climatic conditions obliged producers to adapt themselves. In this sense farming systems in this region are now based on the couple millet-sorghum (white). Groundnut comes in third position. Pedo-climatic conditions offer producers of this region little choice in terms of crop diversification. Croplands are lacking and they are continuously used under rotations: millet-sorghum-groundnut However, it can be noticed that farmers are making efforts to overcome this hostility of nature. It is one of the regions, where the use of organic manure (animal manure and excreta), in association with the use of straw, is quite common. In provinces such Yatenga and Passoré, the Zaï (improved traditional technique) is used to restore deteriorated land. Although the introduction of animal traction goes as far as the beginning of independence (BDPA and SATEC intervention), this practice is also constrained for many reasons : soil fragility, high costs, maintenance of draught animals. As a result, farming activities still remain manual. In the north-western region, it is worth noticing the existence of the Sourou valley, which provides great opportunities for the cultivation of irrigated rice, maize and market gardening. With irrigation, producers undertake two campaigns of rice and earn substantial incomes. It must be noticed that in the irrigated areas, agricultural intensification techniques are used.


It covers the provinces of Boulgou, Kouritenga, Gourma, Gnagna and Tapoa. Some provinces (Gourma, and Tapoa) in this region are the least populated and thus the least deteriorated in Burkina Faso. The annual rainfall varies between 600 mm and 900 mm. It shelters the country's big fauna reserves. It is considered as a cereal producing region. Farming systems there are characterised by the predominance of sorghum and millet in rotations. Groundnut comes next. In recent years, the penetration of cash crops such as cotton has been noticed thanks to political incentives.


It covers the provinces of Kossi, Mouhoun, Houet, Kénédougou, Bougouriba, Comoé and Poni.

The rainfall is in the range of 900 mm and 1100 mm. It constitutes the region with the best agricultural potential. Maize is the main food crop. The growing of rain-fed rice is also developed. It is the chosen zone for the main industrial and cash crops (sugar cane and cotton).

The western region is also that of yams. Mainly cultivated in the Comoé and Poni provinces, the position of yam is relatively important in the farming system. Its cultivation demands rich soils, hence the need to clear new plots as fields become poor. It is a destruction factor of biological diversity.

The western region, no matter what is said, is the region where the modernisation of agriculture is fast (use of improved seeds and grain drills, mechanical ploughing and weeding, treatment with insecticides). In addition to the large adoption of animal traction, favoured by the cultivation of cotton, an experiment of mechanisation occurred thanks to the financial facilities provided by cotton cultivation. This intensification of agriculture is limited in the short term by the fragility of soils whose fertility conservation is not guaranteed. The low rate of organic matter in the soil and the need to restore soil depletion constitutes challenges for most producers in the region despite their satisfactory technical level.

In this region, fallowing is a practice still in force, because of the relative availability of lands. But the land pressure, which is growing with the flow of migrants, tends to make it disappear.


Many national and international institutions are stakeholders in the management of biological resources in Burkina Faso. First, there are, at the national level, ministerial departments and their decentralised agencies with technical, leadership and organisational roles in the field, but also many integrated rural development NGOs, Programmes and projects and, second, at the international level donors and research and development institutions.

2.7.1 STATE OWNED INSTITUTIONS The two ministries in charge respectively of agriculture and animal resources

These two ministries undertake resources management activities through their 12 decentralised agencies constituted by the Regional Centres for the Promotion Agro-pastoral Activities (CRPA) involved in the field with Agricultural Provincial Services (SPA) or Provincial Services of Animal Resources (SPRA).

Similarly, many autonomous Programmes and projects are implemented through the above-mentioned ministries. As far as these Programmes are concerned, one can mention, National Land Management Programme (PNGT), Agricultural Sector Sectoral Adjustment Programme (PASA), etc. The main realised or on-going projects are: PDRI/HKM, the CES/AGF special Programme in the central plateau, the SOUM livestock project, NOUHAO, PATECORE, PDRI/TAPOA and PDRIZORGHO, the NAHOURI Local Development Project, etc. Ministry in charge of Environment and Water

This ministry is the institutional guarantor for the conservation and sustainable use of renewable natural resources. It is particularly involved with environment, forestry and water domains.

As far as forests are concerned, intervention is mainly done by :

  • central agencies, particularly the Permanent Secretariat of the National Council for the Management of the Environment, the Forestry Service and its central technical departments, the General Headquarters of the Protection of the Environment and the National Centre of Forestry Seeds;
  • Regional Departments of the Environment and Forestry whose number is ten (10) with 45 Provincial Services for the Environment and Forestry (SPEEF).

Activities undertaken are part of plans, Programmes and projects such, as the National Action Plan for the Environment (PANE), or "National Action 21", the National Action Plan for Desertification Control (PNLCD), the Burkinabè Sahel Programme, the Cartographic Tools Project for the Management of the Environment, the Participatory Management Project of Natural and Wildlife Resources, the Biological Diversity Integrated Project of Game Ranching Systems (GEF/Nazinga Project), etc.

In water domain, intervention is made through:

  • General Headquarters of Hydraulics and its central technical services;
  • ten (10) Regional Water Departments (DRE) whose teams work towards the mobilisation of water resources in order to meet consumption or irrigation needs.

In addition, there are autonomous projects and attached services such:

  • the National Office of Wells and Boreholes (ONPF) and the National Office of Dams and Hydro-agricultural Development (ONBAH) undertaking the realisation of water points and the construction of dams in favour of hydraulics, support measures for natural resources management actions and irrigated agriculture;
  • the Kompienga Contracting Authority and the Bagré Contracting authority which are responsible for the development and hydroelectric exploitation of the water bodies concerned;
  • the Ziga Contracting Authority which has been working for the realisation of a water body which must supply the city of Ouagadougou;
  • the Water and Rural Equipment Fund (FEER) financing CES/DRS actions;
  • the Water and Sanitation National Office. Ministry of Secondary, Higher Education and Scientific Research.

Actions undertaken by this ministerial department in the domain of natural resources management and production systems deal mainly with research. The institutions in charge of research Programmes are as follows :

  • Rural Development Institute (IDR);
  • Health Science Research Institute;
  • The Faculty of Economics and Management of the University of Ouagadougou (FASEG);
  • The Environmental and Agricultural Research Institute (IN.E.R.A.);
  • Institute of Societal Sciences (I.S.S.);
  • The Faculty of Sciences and Techniques (FAST);
  • Research Institute of Applied and Technological Sciences (IRSAT).

Actions are undertaken through plans and Programmes such as the Research Strategic Plan, Programmes of Natural Resources Management Programmes and Production Systems Programmes, Animal Production, Annual Plant Production, Forestry Production, etc. Ministry in charge of Infrastructures, Housing and Urbanisation

The agencies of this ministry involved with the management of natural resources and production system are three:

  • the Department of town planning;
  • the Department of Road infrastructures;
  • the Geographical Institute of Burkina (IGB); Ministry of transport and Tourism

The agencies involved in actions of natural resources management and production system are:

  • the National Department of Meteorology (D.M.N.);
  • the Department in charge of tourism. Ministry of Health

The contribution of this ministry deals with the rational exploitation of medicinal products from flora and fauna. A technical agency, the Department of pharmaceutical services has been assigned this mission. Ministry of Trade and Handicraft

At the level of this ministry, it is mainly the National Commission in charge of Prices which contributes in the domain of the use of biological diversity products. In addition, the Department of Industrial Development, and the Departments of Trade and Economic Affairs Inspection are the most involved in actions in the domain of natural resources and production system particularly concerning :

  • the development and implementation of commercialisation strategies for agricultural commodities and animal export;
  • the development and enforcement of regulations in terms of quality and standard;
  • the main agencies involved with the management of renewable natural resources are :
    • the Mining Department;
    • the Burkina National Electricity company (SONABEL). Ministry of finance.

One (1) institution from this ministerial department, particularly the customs service, is involved with the control of the export of biodiversity products. Ministry in charge the administration of the territory

At this level, the provincial and departmental administrative services are involved.


Many NGOs finance and/or undertake activities within the framework of the management of natural resources in Burkina Faso. In general, their approach is based on the full participation of communities and on techniques applicable by the latter. Among theses NGOs, there are:

  • OXFAM which finances and implements, in collaboration with CRPAs, the Agroforestry Project (PAF) in migrants' home zones ;
  • Agro-Ecology Project (PAE) which in fact is financed by German NGOs working in collaboration with CRPAs from migrants' home zones;
  • Paul II Foundation for the Sahel;
  • Nature's Friends Foundation (NATURAMA);
  • EURO-ACTION ACCORD, donor of the "soils protection and restoration" project in the north;
  • Federation of National Unions of Naam Groups (F.U.N.G.N.);
  • Associations of Burkina Hunters;
  • Associations of Tradi-practitioners;


In Burkina Faso, there is practically a customary right over lands, represented by "Land Custodians" and consequently, over biological resources contained in these lands. Thus, land custodians are the traditional guarantors of the management of biological resources.


Among the donors, the following may be listed:

  • The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP);
  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP);
  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO);
  • The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF);
  • The World Food Programme (WFP)
  • The European Union;
  • The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD);
  • The United Nations Sudano-Sahelian Office (UNSO);
  • The United States Agency for International Development (USAID);
  • The World Bank (WB);
  • The French Development Fund;
  • The African Development Bank (ADB);
  • The West African Development Bank (WADB);
  • Bilateral co-operations (e.g. : Canadian Agency for International Development, Swiss Cooperation, Dutch Cooperation)
  • etc. Sub-regional and international Institutions and/or organisations

The sub-regional and international institutions involved in the management of biological resources and production system are :



The sustainable management of species and populations has always been a concern in Burkina Faso. In order to attain these objectives, legislative and regulatory measures have been taken in favour of both species and natural formations and the country's development. However, a lot of measures are now confronted with enforcement difficulties.


In this domain, two frameworks are concerned: the national framework and the international framework. National framework

The instruments approved in this framework are constitutional, legislative and regulatory The constitutional instruments

The Burkinabè Constitution of the fourth Republic approved on June 2, 1991 accords a special importance to the protection and management of the environment. It makes many provisions for this purpose.

First, the preamble, which is part and parcel of the constitution, asserts the increased consciousness of the population as far environmental issues are concerned. This awareness of the population of the need to protect the environment was the result of a collective start supported by an inflexible political will.

In addition to the preamble, the protection of the environment constitutes the object of two other provisions of the Constitution. First, there is Article 14 which confers the status of national patrimony upon national resources. In other words, it is the inalienability of these natural resources, at the detriment of the local populations, which is underscored.

As for Article 29, it establishes among human fundamental rights the right to a healthy environment. This measure specifies the State's duty towards citizens, but also towards future generations for which it is our responsibility to bequeath a natural patrimony in an acceptable condition, i.e., which does not jeopardise their chance of survival.

Article 101 of the constitution, concerned with the distribution of legislative and regulatory competencies, deals with the environment. It includes the protection of the environment in matters where the law fixes the fundamental principles.

This establishment of the constitutional value of the protection of the environment is all the more reinforced since it is the only Burkinabè constitutional measure which specifies that the protection of the environment is considered as a State obligation. Legislative and regulatory instruments

Burkina Faso has at its disposal a legislation and regulations covering all the aspects of environmental protection and promotion. In a specific way, these legal provisions apply to land, forestry, wildlife, fishery, water, agricultural and livestock systems. For example, the following measures, which directly apply to biological diversity, may be quoted:

  • Agrarian and Land Reform;
  • Environment Code;
  • Forestry Code;
  • Mining Code;
  • Water Code;
  • Signature and ratification of many international treaties, conventions and agreements concerning the management of biological diversity resources;
  • Traditional and customary regulations (traditional hunting and fishing, sacred woods, taboos).

The exhaustive list of legislative and regulatory instruments having an impact on biological diversity may be consulted in the document entitled "Élaboration d'une monographie nationale sur la diversité biologique : Étude juridique" (Development of a Country Study on Biological Diversity: Legal Study), a study conducted as part of the this monograph. Table 4 shows the quantitative situation of regulatory laws and texts, while table 5 is a caption of legal instruments according to domain of competencies.

Table 4: List of legislative and regulatory texts on the environment

Laws and texts Quantitative situation
Laws  22
Decrees  92
Orders  226
Circulars  4

Table 3: Summary of legal instruments in force in Burkina Faso.

Domain of competence Number of instruments Impact
Environment  74  Direct
Forests  78  Direct
Wildlife  31  Direct
Fishery  Direct
Water  10  Direct
Agriculture and livestock 106  Direct
Land  Indirect
Health  39  Indirect
Wastes and pollution  Direct
Inflammable products 15  Indirect International Framework

Following the other countries of the international community, Burkina Faso subscribed to a number of intentional commitments of which the following impact on the domain of biological diversity:

  • The Convention on wetland of international importance, particularly as Wildlife Habitat (Ramsar, 1971), intended to harness now and in the future the gradual encroachment upon wetlands by recognising their fundamental ecological functions and their economic, cultural, scientific and tourist values;
  • The Convention concerning the protection of World Cultural and Natural Patrimony (Paris, 1972) which institutes a collective system for the protection of outstanding sites of cultural and natural heritage;
  • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna [CITES (Washington, 1973)]. It protects endangered species by controlling trade in dead or live animals through a license system;
  • The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn, 1979) which protects wildlife species migrating across international borders by facilitating international agreements;
  • The Berne Convention on the Conservation of Wildlife and their Natural Habitats;
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity aiming at the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the exploitation of genetic resources;
  • The Convention Framework on Climatic Changes whose objective is to stabilise green house gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level which prevents any dangerous disruption of the climatic system by man;
  • The United Nations Convention on desertification control in countries seriously affected by drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa; its objective is to fight against desertification and to mitigate the effects of drought.

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