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Burkina Faso (E)

Stichting Foundation HELP BURKINA Fondation Stiftung,


Burkina Faso, « the land of the just»


Burkina Faso is a landlocked country situated in the centre of Western Africa 800 Kms away from the nearest ocean. Formerly a colony of France, then called Upper Volta, the country gained independence in 1960. A revolution in 1984 did away with most of the things that reminded people of the French rule. The country called itself Burkina Faso: Land of the Just. There is no port and there are hardly any rivers which, moreover, have no water for the greater part of the year.

Because the country is situated just south of the Sahara desert lengthy droughts in which thousands of people and lots of cattle died were frequent until recently. These droughts were caused by deforestation. Forests were cut down to make money from the excellent wood: it is practacally the only natural resource of the country. Because trees had disappeared, there were no roots to hold the fertile topsoil which consequently washed out by heavy summer rains. At present people begin to realise that afforestation is the answer to their problem and it is strictly forbidden to cut down trees therefore. Also little walls of stone blocks are erected all over the country in order to prevent rainwater from running away unused.

Ouagadoudou, the capital of Burkina Faso is in the centre of the country. It has about 1 million inhabitants. 25 years ago there were fewer than 100.000! The country as a whole has 13 million inhabitants the majority of whom live in the countryside. Nearly 87% is illiterate. The country is about half the size of France, 43% of the population is of the Islamic religion and strongly tied to Animism (the originally local nature worship), 40% is Animist and the rest are Christians. The leaders of the country are generally Catholics and Protestants, because formerly education was mainly controlled by the Catholic and Protestant Churches. Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world: the average monthly income is 45 Euro ( £ 31, $ 54).


The Sahel


The Sahara desert used to move south by several kms each year and as a consequence the south of the country is more densely populated than the north. This is, of course, an intolerable situation. The land lies at an altitude of 300 mtrs (1000 ft) and is nearly as flat as Holland. There are only a few low mountains in the southwest and the southeast. The cooler climate results in more vegetation.

Those who want to go to Burkina Faso as tourists should head for these regions or go to the north where a Nature Reserve can be found. There big game may be hunted, at a price!

Shooting big game at a price in a Nature Reserve may seem offensive to us: it is, however, just about the only means people in Burkina Faso have at their disposal to acquire foreign exchange. Apart from a few moderately successful goldmines the country has no natural resources. Agriculture and cattle breeding support 90% of the population but are not able to generate an income for the country. The people themselves cannot be blamed for this because there is no rain from the middle of September until the middle of May: these circumstances make agriculture and cattle breeding very different from what we are used to.  Burkina Faso has heat in abundance, in winter it is about 20º C when the sun rises. People think that is quite cold and wear thick overcoats, scarves and hats. As Burkina Faso is not very far away from the equator the sun rises at about the same time throughout the year. Each night the sun sets invariably at about 6 o‘clock. The hottest period of the year is March/April when temperature easily soars above 45º C. At night temperature is often 30º C or more then.
Why Burkina Faso?


During our first visit to this country without tourist attractions we were struck by the friendliness of its people. Everywhere reception is hospitable even though the people have hardly any worldly possessions. Because they realise that the few that visit their country do so because they are really interested they only dare to ask for help when they know you a little better. This is what made us say ‚yes‘ when they asked us to help them build a school for orphans and stray children in 1999. This was really an adventure but one progressively finds out that a lot of people are willing to help as long as they know that their money goes straight to the aim desired. The NCDO (National Commission for Durable Development) organisation has always been willing to help.