Burkina Faso

What We Do in Burkina Faso

The Fédération des Caisses Populaires du Burkina (FCPB) has been a Freedom from Hunger partner since 1993 and now reaches 70% of the microfinance market in the country.  The FCPB was Freedom from Hunger’s first credit union partner and together our organizations developed the model for integration of the Credit with Education product for credit unions.  It has been replicated throughout West Africa and in Ecuador.  The FCPB currently reaches 68,000 members with Credit with Education and plans to double this number in the next three years.  The FCPB was also an innovation partner in the Microfinance and Health Protection (MAHP) initiative, reaching 60,000 members with access to health savings and loans and health education.  Freedom from Hunger is now expanding its work to NGOs to extend Saving for Change, based on the model developed in Mali.  By FY14, Freedom from Hunger services will reach 267,000 poor women and their families.

About Burkina Faso

  • Population: 13.2 million
  • Area: 106,000 square miles; about the size of Colorado
  • Languages: French is the official language, but Moré, Dioula and Fulfuldé are the main national languages.
  • Religions: Muslim 50%, Indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 10%
  • Major cities: Oaugadougou (capital), Bobo Dioulasso (2nd largest city)
  • Infanty mortality rate: 99.8 deaths/1,000 live births
  • Life expectancy: 44.5 years
  • Population below poverty line: 45%
  • Fertility rate: 6.3 children born, per woman
  • Adult literacy rate: 26.6%

The Burkinabé way of life is made up of fascinating contrasts. For example, Burkina is one of the most impoverished nations in the world, yet it is also one of the most culturally sophisticated. Located in the middle of West Africa and landlocked on a savanna plateau between the Sahara Desert and the coastal rain forests, it is one of the smallest countries in West Africa but also the most heavily populated. Its flat, arid and scrubby land offers minimal natural resources. Eighty-six percent of the Burkinabé live on less than two dollars a day. Yet amidst such barren conditions thrive not only Africa's largest population of elephants but a sophisticated and world-renowned cultural scene which includes a film festival rivaling the likes of Sundance and Cannes, known as Fespaco.

Burkina Faso is a relatively new name for an area that was once known as Upper Volta. The name was changed in 1984 when a young left-wing socialist named Thomas Sankara took the reigns of the government after nearly twenty years of coups and counter-coups following decolonization from France in 1960. Sankara implemented numerous socialist policies, including immunizing every child against measles and yellow fever, training home-grown doctors for every rural village, building over 350 schools, reducing ministerial privileges and overspending, and starting a railway line to the Niger border. A hero to many and an enemy to others, Sankara was assassinated after just three years in office. His close friend and advisor, Captain Blaise Compaoré, took over after Sankara's death and remains president today.

Burkina Faso is one of the poorest nations in the world. It suffers from an infertile landscape, a lack of natural resources, a primarily subsistent agricultural economy, overpopulation, low literacy levels, high HIV/AIDS rate, and a host of other problems. Despite all these overwhelming challenges, the Burkinabés remain patient and hopeful. They established a constitutional democracy in the early 1990s and have been making real economic progress for the past few years, at times reaching 6% annual growth in GDP. Their mining and manufacturing industries have experienced growth and their agricultural prospects are looking up. But the backbone of the Burkinabés’ way of life and an integral element in their optimistic attitudes is their belief in themselves and each other. Their strong sense of identity and self-respect in the face of overwhelming hardship is evident to any fortunate traveler who witnesses Burkina Faso's fondness for cultural traditions and its respect for the future of African arts.

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