Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa. It covers an area of around 274,200 square kilometers, or about 105,900 square miles, and is surrounded by six countries: Mali to the north, Niger to the east, Benin to the southeast, Togo and Ghana to the south, and Ivory Coast to the southwest. Take a look below for 30 more interesting and fascinating facts about Burkina Faso.
1. The capital of Burkina Faso is Ouagadougou. It’s written as “Wogodogo” in the Moore dialect and it literally means, “You are welcome here at home with us.”
2. The country was formerly known as Upper Volta, and adopted its current name after it gained its independence from France on August 5, 1960.
3. The official language is French, since Burkina Faso was colonized by France. Other languages spoken include Moore, Gourma, Fulfulde, Dioula, and Tamasheq.
4. Burkina Faso has a population of 16.3 million.
5. The Mossi is the biggest ethnic group in Burkina Faso.
6. Gold is Burkina Faso’s main export, followed closely by cotton and various animal products. In fact, Burkina Faso is Africa’s biggest producer of cotton.
7. In 2010, almost 80% of the cotton planted in Burkina Faso was grown from genetically modified seeds. Burkina is second only to South Africa as Africa’s biggest producer of biotech crops and it had the world’s second fastest growing acreage of biotech crops after Australia.
8. Most food in Burkina Faso comes with sauce. Staple foods are sorghum, millet, rice, maize, peanuts, potatoes, beans, yams and okra.
9. 80% of the population in Burkina Faso relies on subsistence agriculture.
10. Burkina Faso is home to 60 different ethnic groups, each with their own variety of folk music.
11. The African Nile crocodile is found in rivers, lakes and ponds all throughout Burkina Faso.
12. Burkina Faso consistently produces silk linings from pigs’ ears.
13. 497 species of birds have been found in Burkina Faso, only one of which is endangered, which is the Egyptian vulture. The country has ten important bird areas.
14. The only species that’s exclusive to Burkina Faso are two fish species, the African tetra and a rare species of catfish.
15. Burkina Faso is a leader in African art and culture and hosts the biggest craft market in Africa.
16. The Bobo, one of the ethnic groups in Burkina Faso, make large butterfly masks, painted in stripes of red, white and black, which are used to invoke the deity Do in fertility ceremonies. The Mossi are known for their antelope masks while the Lobi carve wood.
17. Known in colonial times as Upper Volta, Burkina Faso means “Land of the Honorable People.” Burkinabes are known as among the most honest people in Africa.
18. The Bobo wear a fish mask and a cape made of vegetable fiber for an agricultural festival. The Bobo are the biggest ethnic group in western Burkina Faso.
19. Like all of west Africa, Burkina Faso was populated early by hunter-gatherers in the northwestern part of the country in 12,000 to 5,000 B.C. Their tools, such as scrapers, chisels and arrowheads, were discovered in 1973. Settlements appeared between 3,600 and 2,600 B.C. with farmers.
20. The University of Ouagadougou was founded in 1974 and it was the country’s first institution of higher education.
21. The Polytechnic University in Bobo-Diolasso was opened in 1995. The University of Koudougou was founded in 2005, replacing the former Ecole Normal Superieur de Koudougou.
22. Burkina Faso has a few natural resources. The French only colonized it because it was a bridge between their coastal territories of Benin and Ivory Coast, and their desert holdings in modern-day Mali and Niger.
23. Burkina Faso has 4 national parks, 1 UNESCO Biosphere reserve, 3 complete reserves, 6 partial reserves and 10 protected forests.
24. Arli National Park, which is often called Arly, is a national park located in southeastern Burkina Faso. It adjoins Benin’s Pandjari National Park in the south and the Singou Reserve in the west. The park is home to around 200 elephants, 200 hippos and 100 lions.
25. The Nazinga Reserve protects the largest elephant population in West Africa. It’s one of the most beautiful natural areas in the country, and it isn’t far from the capital of Ouagadougou.
26. The Ruins of Loropeni are an ancient heritage site near the town of Loropeni in southern Burkina Faso. They were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2009. The ruins are the country’s first World Heritage site.
27. Ouagadougou Cathedral is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Ouagadougou in Ouagadougou. The cathedral was built in the 1930s, by apostolic vicar Joanny Thevenoud from the White Fathers, at the time of French North Africa.
28. Various ethnic groups of present day Burkina Faso, such as the Mossi, Fula and Dyula, arrived in successive waves between the 8th and 15th centuries.
29. Oral traditions speak of warrior tribes and horsemen invading the area from the 15th century and establishing kingdoms such as the Gurmanche in the east, the Fulbe and Tuareg in the north and the Mossi in the center.
30. Several Mossi kingdoms developed and were ruled by kings or nabas. The most powerful had its center at Ouagadougou and was headed by the Moro Naba, or the “Great Lord.”