The country is made up mainly of vast monotonous plains and of low hills that rise to c.2,300 ft (700 m) in the southwest. Precipitation is low (nowhere exceeding 45 in./114 cm annually), and the soil is of poor quality. Rainfall is heaviest in the southwest, which is covered largely with savanna; the rest of the country is semidesert. Burkina Faso has several unnavigable rivers. In the southwest is the Komoé (Comoé) River, which flows through Côte d'Ivoire to the Gulf of Guinea; in the center are the Mouhon (Black Volta), Nazinon, and Nakambe (White Volta) rivers, which join in Ghana to form the Volta; and in the northeast are several small tributaries of the Niger.
The majority of Burkina Faso's population live in rural areas. Of some 50 ethnic groups, the principal group is the Mossi, who account for almost half of the total population; others include the Lobi, Bobo, and Gurunsi, all of whose members speak a Voltaic language; Fulani, Mande, and Senufo also constitute sizable minorities. French is the country's official language, and Oyula is spoken in commercial circles. Muslims account for 50% of the population, while 40% follow traditional beliefs and approximately 10% are Roman Catholics.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.