Credit: Water Charity. Rural roads of Burkina Faso.

Eighty percent of Burkina Faso’s population is rural, and make a living primarily through agriculture, livestock and forestry on small family farms. 

But intermittent food shortages grip the country, and are the result of increasing population, erratic rainfall, land use changes, and land tenure insecurity. 

Meanwhile, intensifying competition for land and natural resources is giving rise to increasingly violent land-based conflicts, and the country’s emerging land market is likewise fraught with problems.

The country’s two land tenure systems—one based on national laws and the other on customary land practices—have often appeared at odds, and the Government of Burkina Faso has grappled with this as it has guided national development. Most recently, the Government passed the Rural Land Tenure Law (2009), developed through a broadly participatory process.

Burkina Faso

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The Rural Land Tenure Law has been heralded as one of the most innovative pieces of rural land legislation in West Africa. It decentralizes land management and recognizes customary rights.  It facilitates legal recognition of individual and collective rights, inheritance through land certificates, land leases, and local land management institutions.

Where customary authority over common property resources has eroded, the Act looks to restore local management through the introduction of local rural land charters. The Act both allows for a system of private property based on titling and registration, and seeks to formalize existing customary practices and rules to make them more compatible with modern economies and production systems.

The new law is committed to managing land and land tenure in a way that advances development goals. It breaks with key tenets of the prior national land law passed in 1984, which had vested all untitled land in the state, denied any recognition of customary systems, and attempted to centrally manage all land. The 2009 Rural Land Tenure Law will test an approach that both decentralizes land governance and seeks to harmonize statutory and customary law.

Burkina Faso infographic

Total population 16,967,845
Rural population / rural poverty rate 12,469,839/52.60%
Share of women in agriculture 87.20%
Urban population / urban poverty rate 4,498,006/27.90%
Internally displaced People N/A
Total land area / Agricultural land as % of total 273,600/43.00%
Protected areas (as % of total land) 14.24%
Forested land (as % of total) 20.43%
Annual deforestation rate -1.03%
Land rights and access rating 0.480
Time required to register property (days) 59
Women's ownership rights 0.8
Large-scale land holdings 200,644
GDP per capita (current USD) 612.67
Agriculture as % of GDP 33.81%
Natural resource income as % of GDP 11.82%
Major natural resources manganese, limestone, marble
Tourism as share of GDP 13.90%