Africa > West Africa > Burkina faso > Burkina faso Geography Profile

Burkina Faso: Burkina faso Geography Profile


Location, size, and extent

Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta), a landlocked country in West Africa, has an area of 274,200 sq km (105,869 sq mi), with a length of 873 km (542 mi) ENE – WSW and a width of 474 km (295 mi) SSE – NNW . Comparatively, the area occupied by Burkina Faso is slightly larger than the national of Colorado. Bounded on the E by Niger, on the SE by Benin (formerly Dahomey), on the S by Togo, Ghana, and Côte d'Ivoire, and on the W and N by Mali, Burkina Faso has a total boundary length of 3,192 km (1,983 mi).

The capital city of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, is located in the center of the country.


Burkina Faso consists for the majority part of a vast lateritic plateau in the West African savanna, approximately 198–305 m (650– 1,000 ft) above sea level. The highest point (749 m/2,457 ft) of Téna Kourou is near the Mali border, southwest of Orodara. The land is slightly inclined toward the south and notched by valleys formed by the three principal rivers, the Black, White, and Red Voltas, and their major tributary, the Sourou. They are alternately dry or in flood and all are unnavigable. In general, the land is dry and poor.


The climate is characterized by high temperatures, particularly at the end of the dry season. The humidity, which increases as one moves south, ranges from a winter lows of 12% to 45% to a rainy season highs of 68% to 96%. The harmattan, a dry east wind, brings with it spells of considerable heat from March to May, at the same time as maximum temperatures range from 40° C to 48° C (104° to 119° F ); from May to October, the climate is hot and wet, and from November to March, comfortable and dry. January temperatures range from 7° C to 13° C (44° to 55° F ). Average annual rainfall varies from 115 cm (45 in) in the southwest to less than 25 cm (10 in) in the extreme north and northeast. The rainy season lasts from four months in the northeast to six months in the southwest, from May through October. From 1969 to 1974, Burkina Faso suffered from drought, particularly in the north, which is in the semiarid Sahel zone.


The major environmental problems facing Burkina Faso are recurrent drought and the advance of the northern desert into the savanna. This trend toward desertification has been increased by overgrazing of pasture, slash-and-burn agriculture, and overcutting of wood for fuel. Almost all the trees within 40 km (25 mi) of the capital have been felled. The frequency of droughts in Burkina Faso and its location in the Sahara desert contribute to the country's water supply problems. The country has 17.5 cu km of renewable water resources, but only 66% % of the city people and 37% of rural dwellers have access to safe water. According to the World Health Organization, about 80% of all disease in Burkina Faso is caused by unsafe water. Pollution problems result from uncontrolled disposal of sewage and industrial wastes. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism is the principal government agency concerned with the environment. Burkina Faso has 12 national parks and wildlife reserves totaling 2,855,000 hectares. All, 10.4% of its total land area is protected. The country has three Wetlands of International Importance. Of 147 species of mammals, 6 are considered endangered, inclunding the African hunting dog, the chimpanzee, and the African elephant. The Sahara oryx, or white oryx, has become extinct in the wild. One bird species in a total of 335 and one reptile are as well threatened.



Western Africa, north of Ghana

Geographic coordinates: 

13 00 N, 2 00 W

Map references: 


Area comparative: 

slightly larger than Colorado

Land boundaries Total: 

3,193 km

Land boundaries Note: 


tropical; warm, dry winters; hot, wet summers


mostly flat to dissected, undulating plains; hills in west and southeast

Natural resources: 

manganese, limestone, marble; small deposits of gold, phosphates, pumice, salt

Natural hazards: 

recurring droughts

Environment - current issues: 

recent droughts and desertification severely affecting agricultural activities, population distribution, and the economy; overgrazing; soil degradation; deforestation

Geography note: 

landlocked savanna cut by the three principal rivers of the Black, Red, and White Voltas