What Are The Major Natural Resources Of Burkina Faso?

By Joseph Kiprop on December 18 2018 in Economics

Roughly 20% of Burkina Faso's total land area is considered arable.
Roughly 20% of Burkina Faso's total land area is considered arable.

Burkina Faso is an African nation that is situated on the western edge of the continent where it spans an area of roughly 106,000 square miles. The modern-day economy of Burkina Faso was developed during the colonial era when the natural resources were exploited in earnest. In 2017, the Burkinabe gross domestic product was roughly $12.9 billion which was the 124th highest in the world according to data collected by the World Bank. In 2017, the International Monetary Fund ranked Burkina Faso as the 171st largest economy in the world by its per capita gross domestic product which was roughly $1,884. The economy of Burkina Faso, like most of the economies in Africa, is hugely dependent on its natural resources. Arable land for growing crops such as cotton and sorghum and mineral deposits such as gold are the major natural resources of Burkina Faso.

Arable Land

The World Bank estimated that in 2007, roughly 20% of Burkina Faso's total land area was considered arable. Despite the vast amount of arable land in Burkina Faso, the country is not considered self-sufficient in agriculture. According to the Burkinabe labor department, the most significant section of the state's workforce is employed in the agricultural sector. In 2004, the agriculture sector contributed roughly 30% of the country's gross domestic product. Some of the crops grown in Burkina Faso are considered perennial crops and they cover approximately 13% of the country's total agricultural area. Over Burkina Faso's history, some measures have been taken to improve the country's agricultural industry. One of the measures that the Burkinabe government put in place was to grow the agricultural sector and to construct a canal roughly 711 miles long for irrigation. The canal would link 154 square miles of farms to the Black Volta River. Small-scale farmers owned most of the farms that were linked to the canal with the rest of the farms being owned by the government. Another measure that the Burkinabe government has put in place to grow the farming sector is the introduction of modern farming methods. Some of Burkina Faso's most important crops include cotton, maize, sorghum, and millet. Recently, Burkinabe farmers have also begun growing sugarcane on a large scale.


One of Burkina Faso's most important crops is cotton which is primarily grown for the export market. In 2004, according to official statistics from the Burkinabe government, the nation produced roughly 315,000 tons of cottonseed as well as 210,000 tons of cotton fibers. According to research by the Food and Agricultural Organization cotton in Burkina Faso was likely introduced from two areas either the eastern section of Africa or from India. Before the colonial period, cotton was not a significant crop among the Burkinabe people. Cotton in Burkina Faso gained prominence during the colonial period since the French colonial government realized the benefits that cotton could have to Burkina Faso's growing economy. The French colonial government urged Burkinabe farmers to grow cotton so that they could take advantage of the massive global demand for cotton during the early 20th century. During the colonial times, most of the Burkinabe cotton farmers were exploited. After Burkina Faso gained independence, the government focused on growing the country's cotton industry. During the mid-20thcentury, the Burkinabe cotton sector grew dramatically. Due to the close historical ties between Burkina Faso and France, the French government contributed vast sums of money to develop the Burkinabe cotton sector. During the 1980s, cotton growing in Burkina Faso declined sharply due to several factors with the main one being the decline in global cotton prices. Burkina Faso's cotton sector was too rigidly structured to cope with the volatility in the global cotton industry.


Sorghum is one of Burkina Faso's most important subsistence crops since it is the nation's staple food. From 1960 to 2016, sorghum production in Burkina Faso fluctuated greatly. Burkina Faso achieved peak sorghum production in 2010 when the country produced nearly 2,000,000 tons of sorghum. According to estimates from the Burkinabe agriculture ministry, close to 5,800 square miles of land in the nation was dedicated to sorghum growing. Due to the importance of sorghum to the Burkinabe economy, the government has dedicated vast sums of money to develop the industry. One of the significant steps that the government has taken to increase sorghum growing in the country is to fund research into new varieties of cotton.


Minerals are some of Burkina Faso's most critical natural resources since they contribute significantly to the country's gross domestic product. Several experts believe that the mining industry has the potential to be one of Burkina Faso's most essential industries. The Burkinabe government has invested heavily in the exploration of minerals in the country particularly in the search for copper and zinc. In 2012, the Burkinabe mineral sector was expected to generate $2 billion which would be an increase from the amount of money it generated in 2011 which was roughly $1.4 billion.


The most important mineral in Burkina Faso is gold with the nation being the fourth largest gold producer on the African continent. Data indicates that Burkina Faso's gold reserves are some of the most explored on the African continent. According to the Burkinabe government, the nation may have deposits of gold in its northern edge. Burkina Faso's gold reserves have attracted investments from various countries such as Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Some of the Canadian companies that mine gold in Burkina Faso include the High River Gold Mines Limited and Riverstone Resources Incorporated. Some of the Australian companies that mine for gold in Burkina Faso include Middle Island Resources Limited and the Carbine Resources Limited. The Burkinabe government has granted the Volta Resources company the right to prospect for gold in several regions of the country. Gold mining in Burkina Faso faces several challenges with the most significant one being its impact on the environment. Many environmental activists have claimed that gold mining has affected the environment of Séguénéga which is located in the northern edge of the country.

Economic Challenges That Face Burkina Faso

The Burkinabe economy faces numerous challenges with the most significant one being the lack of sufficient infrastructure. Another major challenge that faces the Burkinabe economy is the country's low literacy rate.

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