Country study on burkina faso biodiversity conducted by the permanent secretariat of the national council for the management of the environment and the national

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In Burkina Faso, the determining human factors can be summarised in the following terms: high population growth, irregular distribution of population density with high rates in some parts of the country; the highest rates are found in the provinces of Kadiogo, Houet, Kouritenga, Oubritenga, Yatenga, Comoé, etc. Burkina Faso is subject to important internal and external population migrations. The population is characterised by an important ethnic diversity (sixty in total) and an important inter-mixing.


The population of Burkina Faso is 9 190 000 inhabitants according to the population census conducted in 1991 (OUEDRAOGO N. A., 1997), with an annual growth rate of 2.63%. The resident population in 1985 was 7 964 705 inhabitants. Compared with that of 1991, it increased by 15% in six (6) years. Considering the importance of the Burkinabè community living abroad (more than 2 million), we can infer that the country comprises more than

10 000 000 inhabitants.
According to the Atlas Jeune Afrique, the distribution of the Burkinabè population shows some disparities ranging from 11 inhabitants per km2 (provinces of Oudalan, Gourma, Tapoa) to 122 inhabitants per km2 (province of Kouritenga). The average density for all the country is 33 inhabitants per km2. However, the centre of the country called the Mossi land experiences a high population concentration, which led to an overexploitation of natural resources resulting in the degradation of the environment and a loss of biological diversity. The main big urban centres are : Ouagadougou, Bobo-Dioulasso, Ouahigouya, Koudougou, Banfora. Map 9 below gives an idea about the distribution of the population. The State is trying to solve the population problem through a family education Programme.

Map 9: Population density according to district per km2 (INSD, 1985. Census)

2.5.2 ethnic groups

In Burkina Faso, there are about sixty coexisting ethnic groups predominated by the Mossi, Fulani and Bobo-Dioula ethnic groups. The main economic activity of the Fulani is livestock raising, while the majority of the rest of the peasant population constitutes farmers. But more and more we are experiencing a combination of both activities by the former as well as the latter because of the climatic variations. Table 3 shows the distribution of the main ethnic groups according to their importance in percentage of the total population. Three national languages are widely spoken in the country. They are in rank of order the More, Dilua and Fulfuldé (Fulani) languages

Table 32: Principal ethnic groups of Burkina Faso

Ethnic groups




















Source: J.J. Kessler et C. Geerling, 1994

2.5.3 migrations

The population of Burkina Faso experiences an important migration at both internal and external levels. The average ratio between internal and external migrations is as follows: out 100 migrant people, 71.2 % migrate inside the country and 28.8% abroad.

External migrations occur towards those countries where labour demand is high. It is actually difficult to give precise figures of Burkinabès living abroad.
Internal migrations occur towards both urban centres (rural exodus) in search of employment and from some rural areas towards other areas that are relatively prosperous for agricultural activities (rural migrations).

Rural migrations occur as follows:

  • individual or collective departures occurring from usually infertile and overpopulated regions (e. g. : the central plateau or Mossi land) towards more fertile and hardly exploited areas; the main host provinces are those of Houet, Mouhoun, Gourma, Tapoa, Kossi and Sissili;

  • spontaneous departures towards places where there are real possibilities of earning more substantial incomes (e. g. : gold sites), noticed in the provinces of Sanmatenga, Passoré, Séno and Soum;

  • State organised migrations towards areas developed for agricultural exploitation; they concern the developed plain of the Sourou province and the plain of the Kompienga and Bagré dam and the Kou valley.

The settlement of populations in these areas is anarchic. However, as far as organised migrations are concerned, the National Office in charge of Land Development (ONAT) is trying to organise the settlement of migrants.

The growth rates of migrations in host provinces between 1975 and 1985 were as follows : 88% for the Houet province, 44% for Mouhoun, 73% for the Tapoa, 64% for the Kossi and 106% for the Sissili (J.J. Kessler et C. Geerling, 1994).


According to OUEDRAOGO N., 1997, three land systems which coexisted in Burkina Faso can be distinguished. They are as follows: customary land system, colonial land system and post-colonial land system. The customary land system

The customary land system is almost the same everywhere in Burkina Faso. It is based on the collective ownership of land. The collective ownership of land is exercised by the land custodian (known as Tengsoba for the Mossi, Tarfolo for the Sénoufo, Susunnbaso tinibaso for the Bwaba etc. (OUEDRAOGO S. 1993). In all customs the land custodian is the closest descendant of the first settler. In this capacity, he administers the land patrimony of the group in the interest of all the community. He distributes land or he authorises land use, following the indispensable rites, by households and individuals that require it and in accordance with their needs. Thus, the applicant acquires a user right, which must not be mistaken for ownership right in the Western sense of the term. However, after the death of the applicant his heirs will settle and exploit the same land without the land custodian intervening anew. This land is available for the whole community for any possible use in case no heir claims it. Land is given provisionally to strangers (non-natives) even if this provision may be permanent. Therefore the right accorded to the stranger is precarious, hence the notion of land insecurity for migrants. In this case, land is simply lent, often following royalties in kind or performances of various services. Security imperatives require that the applicant be first socially integrated. However, except in rare cases, land cannot be refused to an applicant according customary law. Therefore the customary land system is complex in practice.

At the economic and social levels, it must be acknowledged that the customary land system, with all its utilisation nuances, opposes creative investments or dissuades them through the almost permanent insecurity as far as individual use is concerned. In this system, land is not given to those who have the necessary means to develop it, but to those who won the confidence of the owning social group, and what is more, on a provisional basis. The colonial land system

This system is essentially based on private ownership while making provision for a public estate. Private estate is acquired through purchase, exchange, gifts or legacies, etc. Public estate is made up of natural properties such as hills, rivers, natural or artificial lakes (roads, artificial water bodies, etc.). This system was resisted to by the customary land system. The post-colonial land system

The land system in force now is based on the agrarian and land reform (RAF), adopted in 1984, which grants user rights to individuals and moral entities.

It makes provision for a national land including all the lands within the borders of Burkina Faso, no matter their former status or legal systems. State property is inalienable, unseizable and imprescriptible. In addition to ownership right, the State assigned itself that of management. In this way, it defines rights for groups and individuals. It should be pointed out that the settlement and exploitation of rural lands by peasants for subsistence are free.
The RAF so designed shatters the mystic aura of land and takes away from peasants their references and customary value systems by leading them to practise new farming techniques (protection and restoration of soils, fertilisation, etc.). This law particularly aimed at making land available to those willing to develop it, and at organising the rational management of this resource which has become in the end scarce in Burkina Faso.
Therefore, this land system aims at favouring the development of productive agricultural forces. However, it does not encourage populations to make sustainable investments and a lot of resistance to its enforcement can be noticed.

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