- Make a Donation
- Become a Child Sponsor
- Shop Our Gift Catalog
- Get Involved
- Join Our Cause
A hunger crisis is affecting children and families in Burkina Faso. Lack of rain and failing crops have left families struggling for food. Save the Children is reaching children who are most at risk – but we urgently need raise awareness and funds before the crisis worsens. Find out how you can help
Between the Sahara desert and the rain forests near the western African coast, lies the Sahel, located along the southern fringes of Africa's Sahara desert. This semi-arid region of Africa extends from Senegal on the west, through Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan, to Ethiopia on the east.
Burkina Faso sits at the edge of the Sahel, locked in by Benin, Togo and Ghana to the southeast, Ivory Coast to the south, Mali to the west and Niger to the north. About twice the size of Colorado, it is one of the smallest territories in West Africa, but one of the most heavily populated.
The climate in Burkina Faso is similar to that of other Sahel countries, featuring two distinct seasons: the dry season lasts from November until May and the wet season from June through October. The hottest time of the year falls between March and June, and dusty Harmattan winds blow incessantly between the months of December and February.
Most of Burkina is flat and arid. The vegetation thins out to the north into sandy dunes as it approaches the Sahara. The south opens into forests and sugar cane fields; and in the east there are rolling plateaus and green woodlands. There are three major rivers of Burkina Faso: the Mahoun, Nazinonm and the Nakanbe.
The term savanna refers to a treeless or sparsely forested plain, and although the Saharan desert is sparsely populated with plant life, it has never been an impenetrable barrier for human beings, since ancient times many trade routes have successfully made the formidable crossing. Much of Burkina Faso is populated by descendants of the Mossi empire, founded when a band of horsemen from nearby Ghana galloped through at the turn of the 15th century. The Mossi organized an empire that developed courts of law, administrative bodies, ministerial positions and a cavalry to protect its realm.
Burkina Faso has more than 60 ethnic groups, each with its own social and cultural distinction, but all emphatically Burkinabé. The major groups include the Bobo, who live around the city of Bobo Dioulasso, the Fulani, the Lobi and the Sénufo, but the most dominant group are the Mossi, descendants of the royal empire and the emperor, or Moro-Naba.
The cultural history of the Sahel is characterized by many encounters among people from divergent backgrounds. There has always been great linguistic diversity in the Sahel. Throughout history, Arabic-speaking peoples from North Africa and the Sahara and groups from the south came to this region, as did people with different agricultural production methods, including sedentary populations as well as nomads. These mixed cultures have engaged in trade, formed alliances, and alternately befriended and fought against each other.
For centuries, the Sahel region boasted some of Africa's most influential civilizations. A narrow band of semi-arid land south of the Sahara, the Sahel attracted both Arabs looking for gold and Europeans looking for slaves. The two influences merged with native ones, creating a culturally complex area.
Responding to the great drought of the 1970s, Save the Children began programs in Dori, Burkina Faso in 1977. Today, an integrated program of activities in education and health serves the populations of 81 communities in Bazega province, south of the capital of Ouagadougou. These programs promote school enrollment, particularly for girls, as well as focusing on improving maternal and child health and HIV/AIDS prevention.
Education, whether it is literacy training or supporting community schools, is a cornerstone of Save the Children activities in Burkina Faso. Working closely with community organizations to assess needs and successfully address them is the core of all of Save the Children’s work in the Sahel. This includes village health, school management, credit or market garden committees. Save the Children has helped to facilitate those processes that enable individuals, families, and communities to make pivotal decisions and allow them access to opportunities that positively affect the quality of their lives.
Burkina Faso Facts and Statistics
Unless otherwise noted, facts and statistics have been sourced from Save the Children’s 2012 State of the World’s Mothers report. You can access detailed data here.
Other sources as follows: Infant Mortality Rate: CIA World Factbook 2012; Life Expectancy at Birth: World Bank's World Development Indicators 2012; National Poverty Rate: World Bank's World Development Indicators 2012; Population: CIA World Factbook 2012; Human Development Index Rank: United Nations Development Program
Last Updated July 2013