Monthly Archives: May 2010

CUSO-VSO’s Volunteer Financial Support

While our CUSO-VSO placements are “volunteer” placements, CUSO-VSO provides financial support to cover the majority of the costs of being an overseas volunteer. Specifically, they provide the following support:

  • Attendance at a CUSO-VSO assessment day (candidates must cover the first $150 of the most cost-effective travel expenses and accommodation costs).
  • Travel and accommodation costs associated with pre-departure training.
  • Return airfare and visa/permit (this includes a return flight in the case of a family emergency).
  • Coverage for required vaccinations, medications and comprehensive health insurance.
  • Accommodation while overseas.
  • A small local currency living allowance to cover the cost of food, power & water etc.
  • Quarterly payments to support you in your placement.

Videos of Life in Burkina Faso

Here are a couple of videos created by volunteers and expats living in Burkina Faso:


All CUSO-VSO’s Burkina Faso volunteers are provided housing with a minimum of the following:

  • bed with mattress,
  • small study table,
  • two-seater sofa and chairs,
  • dining table and chairs,
  • pantry,
  • dresser,
  • mosquito net,
  • three burner gas stove & 12kg gas bottle,
  • water filter.

Notice washing machine, microwave, dishwasher & AC are not on the list ….

The original french version from the country briefing document:

Enfin pour votre logement sachez que vous y trouverez le minimum requis pour votre
bien être :

  • Un lit avec matelas
  • Petite table d’étude
  • Deux fauteuils et un canapé de deux places
  • Une table à manger et deux chaises
  • Un garde mangé
  • Une armoire à linges
  • Une moustiquaire
  • Une cuisinière trois foyer à gaz avec une bouteille de 12 kg
  • Un réfrigérateur
  • Un filtre à eau

Burkina Faso: The People “Les Burkinabés”

Burkina Faso’s 15.2 million people (2008) belong to two major West African cultural groups–the Voltaic and the Mande (whose common language is Dioula). The Voltaic Mossi make up about one-half of the population. The Mossi claim descent from warriors who migrated to present-day Burkina Faso from Ghana and established an empire that lasted more than 800 years. Predominantly farmers, the Mossi kingdom is still led by the Mogho Naba, whose court is in Ouagadougou.

Burkina Faso is an ethnically integrated, secular state. Most of Burkina’s people are concentrated in the south and center of the country, sometimes exceeding 48 per square kilometer (125/sq. mi.). Hundreds of thousands of Burkinabè migrate to Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, many for seasonal agricultural work. These flows of workers are affected by external events; the September 2002 coup attempt in Cote d’Ivoire and the ensuing fighting there meant that hundreds of thousands of Burkinabe returned to Burkina Faso. A plurality of Burkinabè are Muslim, but most also adhere to traditional African religions. The introduction of Islam to Burkina Faso was initially resisted by the Mossi rulers. Christians, both Roman Catholics and Protestants, comprise about 25% of the population, with their largest concentration in urban areas.

Few Burkinabè have had formal education. Schooling is in theory free and compulsory until the age of 16, but only about 72.5% of Burkina’s primary school-age children are enrolled in primary school due to actual costs of school supplies, school fees, insufficient infrastructure and teachers, and to opportunity costs of sending a child who could earn money for the family to school. Of those enrolled, only about 40.7% complete primary school. The University of Ouagadougou, founded in 1974, was the country’s first institution of higher education. The Polytechnical University in Bobo-Dioulasso was opened in 1995. The University of Koudougou was founded in 2005 to substitute for the former teachers’ training school, Ecole Normale Superieure de Koudougou.

More Quick Facts

Age structure
  • 0-14 years: 46%
  • 15-64 years: 51.5%
  • 65 years and over: 2.5%
Median age 16.8 years
Population growth rate 3.095%
Birth rate 43.98 births/1,000 population
Death rate 13.02 deaths/1,000 population
Infant mortality rate 82.98 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth 53.32 years
Total fertility rate 6.21 children born/woman
Urbanization urban population: 20% of total population

Burkina Faso: Geography

Burkina Faso: Elephants along Mouhoun River (Photo: Yvan Perré)

Burkina Faso: Sahelian Steppe  (Photo: Yvan Perré)

Burkina Faso: Sahelian Steppe (Photo: Yvan Perré)

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country located in the middle of West Africa’s “hump.” It is geographically in the Sahel–the agricultural region between the Sahara Desert and the coastal rain forests. Most of central Burkina Faso lies on a savanna plateau, 200 meters-300 meters (650 ft.-1,000 ft.) above sea level, with fields, brush, and scattered trees.

The largest river is the Mouhoun (Black Volta), which is partially navigable by small craft. Burkina Faso has West Africa’s largest elephant population. Game preserves also are home to lions, hippos, monkeys, warthogs, and antelope. Infrastructure and tourism are, however, not well developed.

The Burkina Faso sahel is the northern zone of hot, scrubby land that borders the desert. The word "sahel" means "shore", referring to the "shore of the desert"

Annual average rainfall varies from about 100 centimeters (40 in.) in the south to less than 25 centimeters (10 in.) in the north and northeast, where hot desert winds accentuate the dryness of the region. The cooler season, November to February, is pleasantly warm and dry (but dusty), with cool evenings. March-June can be very hot. In July-September, the rains bring a 3-month cooler and greener humid season.

Black, White & Red Volta rivers

Black, White & Red Volta rivers (Burkina Faso was previously named Upper Volta)

More Quick Facts

  • Natural resources: manganese, limestone, marble; small deposits of gold, phosphates, pumice, salt
  • Land use: arable land (17.66%), permanent crops  (0.22%) & other (82.12%)
  • Natural hazards: recurring droughts
  • Environment – current issues: recent droughts and desertification severely affecting agricultural activities, population distribution, and the economy; overgrazing; soil degradation; deforestation

Burkina Faso Maps

Burkina Faso – Quick Facts


  • Area: 274,200 sq. km. (106,000 sq. mi.); about the size of Colorado.
  • Cities: Capital–Ouagadougou (pop. 1.4 million). Other cities–Bobo-Dioulasso (490,000), Koudougou (88,000).
  • Terrain: Savanna; brushy plains and scattered hills.
  • Climate: Sahelian; pronounced wet and dry seasons.


  • Nationality: Burkinabé
  • Population (2008): 15.264 million.
  • Annual growth rate (2008): 3.1%.
  • Ethnic groups: 63 ethnic groups among which are Mossi (almost half of the total population), Bobo, Mande, Lobi, Fulani, Gourounsi, and Senufo.
  • Religions: Traditional beliefs 20%, Muslim 55%, Christian 25%.
  • Languages: French (official), Moore, Dioula, others.
  • Education: Literacy (2009)–26%.
  • Health: Infant mortality rate (2008)–86.02/1,000. Life expectancy (2008)–52 years.
  • Work force: Agriculture–90%; industry–2.1%; commerce, services, and government–5.5%.


  • GDP (2009): $6.3 billion.
  • Annual growth rate (2009): 3.1%.
  • Per capita income (2008): $440.
  • Avg. inflation rate (2008): 10.4%.
  • Natural resources: Manganese, gold, limestone, marble, phosphate, zinc, uranium.
  • Agriculture (37% of GDP): Products–cotton, millet, sorghum, rice, livestock, peanuts, shea nuts, maize.
  • Industry (24% of GDP): Type–mining, agricultural processing plants, brewing and bottling, light industry.
  • Trade (2007): Exports–$404 million: cotton, gold, livestock, peanuts, shea nut products. Major markets–China, Singapore, Thailand, Ghana, Niger. Imports–$783 million.
  • Official exchange rate: Fixed to the euro. Communaute Financiere Africaine (CFA) francs 656=1 euro (2003: approx. CFA francs 579=U.S. $1; 2005: CFA francs 534=U.S. $1; 2009: approx 451 CFA francs= U.S. $1).


  • Type: Republic.
  • Independence: August 5, 1960.
  • Constitution: June 11, 1991.
  • Branches: Executive–president (head of state and Council of Ministers) prime minister (head of government). Legislative–one chamber. Judiciary–independent.
  • Subdivisions: 13 regions, 45 provinces, 351 communes.
  • Political parties: Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), Alliance for Democracy Federation/ African Democratic Assembly (ADF/RDA), Unity for the Renaissance/Sankarist Party (UNIR/PS), Unity for the Republic (UPR), Convention of Democratic Forces of Burkina (CFD/B), and numerous other small opposition parties.
  • Suffrage: Direct universal.
  • Government budget (2010): $2.4 billion.
  • Defense: 5.5% of government budget.