Burkina Faso is one of the poorest nations in the world, with few natural resources; the great majority of its workers engage in subsistence farming. Less than 10% of the country's land area is cultivable without irrigation, and droughts have further limited agricultural production; however, several dams intended for irrigation and hydroelectricity, including the Ziga dam on the Nakambe River, which supplies the capital, were constructed in the 1990s. The principal cash crop is cotton; other agricultural commodities include peanuts, shea nuts, sesame, sorghum, millet, corn, and rice. Cattle, sheep, and goats are raised.
The country's industry is limited largely to the production of cotton lint, foodstuffs, and basic consumer goods. Burkina Faso has a small mining industry that produces manganese, phosphates, and gold-bearing quartz; other small mineral deposits remain untapped. The country has a comparatively good road network. A railroad runs from Ouagadougou to the seaport of Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, via Bobo-Dioulasso and Banfora; it is currently being extended NE to Tambao.
The annual cost of Burkina Faso's imports is usually much higher than its earnings from exports, and the nation relies on debt servicing from other countries. The principal imports are capital goods, foodstuffs, and petroleum; the leading exports are cotton, live animals, and gold. The chief trading partners are China, France, Côte d'Ivoire, and Singapore. Large numbers of the male labor force migrate to Côte d'Ivoire and (to a lesser extent) Ghana for seasonal work, but their labor contributes little to the national economy.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.