SEATTLE — Located in sub-Saharan Africa, Burkina Faso is a landlocked, low-income nation. Despite a recent increase in annual economic growth in 2016, approximately 40.1 percent of the country’s citizens still live below the poverty line. Ninety percent of Burkina Faso’s poor live in rural areas, though urban poverty growth is also increasing. The majority of the rural population works in the agricultural sector, which is highly vulnerable to unpredictable levels of rainfall as well as fluctuations in the prices of its exports. Some of the main causes of poverty in Burkina Faso continue to be a lack of resilience and modernization in the agricultural sector, an unmanaged rural exodus to urban areas and a growing population size.
Burkina Faso is ranked 185 out of 188 countries on the 2016 Human Development Index. The average life expectancy in the country is 59.0 years, slightly lower than the average life expectancy of 59.3 years of other low human development countries. The expected amount of schooling is 7.7 years, also below the low human development average of 9.3 years. High rates of food insecurity and undernutrition persist, with approximately 10.4 percent of Burkinabe children suffering from acute malnutrition. Insufficient investment in education and infrastructure have made any developments difficult to maintain.
In the last 20 years, Burkina Faso’s urban population has quadrupled. This urban population growth has not been met by any structural changes in the urban economy, leaving fewer than 10 percent of the country’s urban dwellers with jobs in the formal sector. Rural poverty, however, affects nearly half of all households in the north and north central regions of the country and two-thirds of its eastern regions. Approximately 80 percent of Burkina Faso’s working population depends on the agricultural sector for its livelihood, and two of the country’s important export commodities, cotton and gold, have been subject to fluctuating prices in recent years.
Another one of the causes of poverty in Burkina Faso could be lack of political stability. Since the 2015 presidential election of Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, following a popular uprising in October 2014 that forced former president Blaise Campaoré from power, Burkina Faso has seen a gradual increase in economic growth. In 2016, the growth rate stood at 5.4 percent, an increase from four percent in 2015 but still lower than the six percent average during the 2003-2013 period. Lasting political stability, in addition to increasing international trade and diversifying exports, could help advance and maintain economic and social development in Burkina Faso.
In order to help combat some of the other root causes of poverty in Burkina Faso, organizations such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have implemented programs aimed at strengthening the resilience and increasing the productivity of the country’s agricultural sector. IFAD’s Participatory Natural Resource Management and Rural Development Project in the northern, central-northern and eastern regions hopes to improve incomes and livelihoods for 200,000 of the poorest households in Burkina Faso by promoting sustainable land development and the full participation of men and women in order to ensure their long-term economic independence.
In addition to the need to modernize the agricultural sector, improvement in managing urbanization and industrial policies would allow for the development of non-agricultural sectors and increase job availability. Between making improvements in the rural and urban economies as well as maintaining political stability, it is believed Burkina Faso’s economy will continue to grow, and its poverty rate will continue to fall.
– Amanda Quinn