Burkina Faso

Environment:

Burkina Faso is in Western Africa, north of Ghana. The terrain is mostly flat to dissected, undulating plains, with hills in west and southeast. The highest point is Mount Tenakourou at 747 meters (2,451 feet). The savanna is cut by the three principal rivers, the Black Volta (Mouhoun), Red Volta (Nazinon), and White Volta (Nakambe).

Environmental issues include droughts and desertification, overgrazing, soil degradation, and deforestation. Gold mining plays a significant role in Burkina Faso’s economy. The Convention on Biological Diversity maintains a biodiversity portal for Burkina Faso. The official Ministere de l’Environnement et du Developement Durable is responsible for the environment and sustainable development. There is also a national council for the environment and sustainable development, Conseil National pour l’Environnement et le Développement Durable. The green party is known as Rassemblement Des Ecologistes du Burkina Faso. Naturama is the foundation of the friends of nature. The women’s action group for the economic recovery of Houet, Groupe d’Action des Femmes pour la Relance Economique du Houet, has established an innovative recycling program, turning recycled plastic bags into thread for weaving.

Burkina Faso has two international Biosphere Reserves, the Lake of Hippopotamuses (Mare aux Hippopotames) and W Regional Park (W Transborder Park). Other national parks include Arli National Park, Deux Balés National Park, and Kaboré Tambi National Park. The protected Arly-Singou complex is an ecosystem, largely lion habitat, that includes Arli National Park and Singou Reserve in Burkina Faso, and the Pendjari National Park in neighboring Benin. The Nazinga Game Ranch, begun as a private conservation initiative, is now a government wildlife reserve. Lake Tengrela is a small lake near Banfora, believed to contain sacred and therefore unusual hippopotamuses.

Based in Burkina Faso, Ecoguides of the WAP parks, including the Tapoa Association of Ecoguides and Ecosystem Protection and tourism association of Tapoa Province, organizes academically qualified guides to the border region.

Biosphere Reserves:

  • Mare aux Hippopotames
  • ‘W’ Region (B/BF/N)

IUCN Members:

Culture:

Burkina Faso’s sole World Heritage site, the Ruins of Loropéni, is a mysterious stone ruin linked to the pre-European gold trade. The French arrived in the late 19th century, and incorporated French Upper Volta into French West Africa. Following WWII, Upper Volta gained various degrees of self-government, until becoming the independent Republic of Upper Volta in 1960. However, civil unrest lead to a military coup in 1966. Various forms of military rule lasted until Upper Volta was renamed Burkina Faso in 1984, by then president Thomas Sankara. “Burkina” comes from the Mossi language, meaning honest or deserving, and “Faso” comes from the Dyula language, meaning “country”. In 1985, Burkina Faso went to war with neighboring Mali over the mineral-rich Agacher Strip. Marxist president Sankara was assassinated in 1987, in yet another military coup. Despite a new constitution in 1991, and subsequent elections, the last military coup leader Blaise Compaoré has remained in control since 1987. In 2011, there was further civil unrest and unsuccessful military coup.

Due to the long history of authoritarian rule in Burkina Faso, human rights are closely monitored by the international community. For instance, Amnesty International maintains a country specific website, the French language Amnesty International Burkina Faso. Of course, corruption is also an issue to such a degree that there is a dedicated national anti-corruption network, Réseau National de Lutte Anti-corruption. Today, Jihadist terrorism has become such an issue that the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all travel in the north of Burkina Faso. The U.S. State Department also advises on threats to safety and security. The Overseas Security Advisory Council of the U.S. State Department provides detailed, up to date crime and safety reports. As of 2012, deadly ethnic clashes were being reported along the Burkina Faso-Mali border. In 2013, the U.N. Refugee Agency listed 12 refugee camps in Burkina Faso due to the Mali situation (Operation Mali).

Burkina Faso has 7 natural and cultural sites on the Tentative List of World Heritage, including Les nécropoles de Bourzanga, Cour royale de Tiébélé, Les sites de métallurgie ancienne de réduction du fer dans les espaces boose et bwi, La réserve de Biosphère de la Mare aux Hippopotames de Bala, Le complexe Parcs nationaux Arly-W, Les gravures rupestres du Sahel burkinabè : Pobé-Mengao, Arbinda et Markoye, and Sya, centre historique de Bobo-Dioulasso. There are no registered ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property) members for Burkina Faso. There is a ministry for arts and culture, Ministère des arts et de la culture. Museums include Musée Belemnyègré de Manéga and Musée de Gaoua Lobi Gan. Events include the jazz festival – Festival Jazz à Ouaga, the international crafts fair – Salon international de l’artisanat de Ouagadougou, the pan-African film and television festival – Festival Panafricain de Cinéma et de Télévision de Ouagadougou (fespaco-bf.net), and national culture week – Semaine Nationale de la Culture.

Office Nationale du Tourisme Burkinabè maintains the official tourism website for Burkina Faso. Kogglya Travel is a prominent travel agency in the capital city of Ouagadougou. The Italian “Heart Melts” foundation, Fondazione Il Cuore Si Scioglie, is doing interesting development work, opening a chain of cooperative pizzeria-bakeries across Burkina Faso. Oddly, former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi had poured a lot of investment capital into Burkina Faso, including Ouagadougou’s grandest hotel. The Cailcedrat Guesthouse (Résidence-Auberge Le Caïlcédrat) is a more modest place to stay in Ouagadougou. Namoungou Safari operates Yentangou Camp (Campement Yentangou) in the Piéla Department of Gnagna Province, eastern Burkina Faso. Rail links Ouagadougou with Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, on the coast to the south, and goes as far northeast as Kaya. Air Burkina is the national airline, and flies throughout much of West Africa, as well as to France.

References:

  • Burkina Faso, 2nd (Bradt Travel Guide Burkina Faso) by K Manson, J Knight, 2012
  • Masques, tourisme et patrimoine au Burkina Faso : la tradition en question by C Peiffer, 2012
  • Traditional hunters and sacred groves: culture and tourism around the Comoé-Léraba reserve (Burkina Faso) by C Lanzano, 2012
  • The current situation in Burkina Faso: special program aimed at the transportation and tourism sectors by OY Yonli, 2007