About Burkina Faso

Country name: Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso adopted its name in 1984 during the presidency of Thomas Sankara.  It means ‘Land of Upright People.’  Previously, it had been the Upper Volta.

Climate and Geography

Burkina Faso has three primary rivers, Black Volta, White Volta, and Red Volta.  The country is located in the Sahel and in the tropics.  Burkina Faso has two seasons, rainy and dry.  During the dry season, the harmattan blows across the country, which is a hot dry wind from the Sahara, the desert to the north.

When it does rain, it does not have to rain long for the shallow soil to flood into red mud. And as inconvenient as that mud can be, rain is the best thing that can happen in a day.


A majority of the country is Muslim, and there is also a strong Christian presence.  A Burkinabe proverb says ‘50% are Muslim, 50% are Christian, and 100% are animist.’ Animism is the belief in spiritual importance of nature and things found in it. For example, in my village there is a sacred hill and a sacred bush. How those things are identified, or much beyond that, really, I am still learning.


Traditional Mossi food is “to.” It is flour (corn, millet, or red sorghum) boiled in water, then you slowly add more flour to thicken in, pounding and stirring vigorously. When it cools a bit, it is the consistency of cold mashed potatoes. It is ate with sauce like okra or a variety of leaf sauces.

If not eating to, rice is a staple. Rice is served with sauce, but nto the same sauces as to. Yes, there is a difference. Rice sauces are usually tomato, peanut, or vegatable.


Non-alcoholic drinks include bissap, gingembre, and zoomkoom. Bissap is made from boiling hibiscus flowers in water and adding sugar and a little fruit extract if available. Gingembre is ginger in hot water and sugar. It’s pretty strong and spicy. Zoomkoom is made from small variety millet and water. Zoom is the Moore word for small variety millet and koom is water.

The main alcoholic drink here is definitely dolo, or chapalo, or rem. It’s all the same, fermented red sorghum. There are no process controls here, so everybody’s dolo is different. It is drank out of a hollowed out calabash (gourd) and communally. You drink, you pass. The market turns into a dolo den on Sundays as dolo is one of the most communal things here.


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