The eastern region of Burkina Faso
The eastern region stretches over almost 40 000 km and covers about one-sixth of the national territory. The eastern region is the largest in Burkina Faso and includes 5 provinces: Gourma, Gnagna, Tapoa, Kompienga and Komandjoari.
Three borders, two rivers and a few cliffs
Accounting about 1.5 million inhabitants, it is one of the least dense regions in Burkina. The eastern region shares three international borders with Niger to the East, and with Benin and Togo to the South. In the North, the eastern region meets the Sahel region. Whereas in the west, the region’s boundary starts with the Mossi plateau.
Several rivers and small rivers gather to make up two water basins: the Volta Basin and the Niger River basin. In the south, the Pendjari River flows into Lake Volta in Ghana from the Atakora Mountains in Benin by separating Burkina on its upstream. In the West, the Kompienga River flows down to the south and meets the Pendjari in Benin a few kilometers beyond the border. Going back to the north of the region, three parallel small rivers originate from Burkina and cross the country by the east to reach the Niger River: the Tapoa first, the Bonsoaga next, and then the Sirba.
Some rare reliefs: the Gobnangou cliffs.
Making up a bulge in the north of the Pendjari upstream basin, the Gobnangou cliffs spread between Tansarga, in the Tapoa province and Madjoari, in the Kompienga province. They are quite irregular in shape and generally low (100m maximum), but they provide the region with a specific feature by allowing the observation of wonderful panoramas. The cliffs are made of hard and solid sandstone to provide a suitable playground for climbers, who will care not to disturb the baboons and birds that live there. Moving deeper, you can come across some amazing "sacred" sources and bathe in beautiful waterfalls during the rainy season.
Agriculture, livestock, nature and culture
The region is crossed by two major trade roads: the road to Niger and that to Benin and Togo. These two major ways meet in Fada N'Gourma before going to Ouagadougou. The regional capital is then a major international trading hub. The people in this region, like those living in the country, mostly rural, draw their income from agriculture. The area is also known for the large presence of non-timber forest products (shea, Neem, Nere, Acacia ...). These are not cultivated plant species whose fruit, flowers, leaves, or resin and bark can be valued. It also includes one of the largest and lively cattle markets in West Africa. Many farmers from Nigeria, Niger, Mali, even Ghana, Benin and Togo come each week to do business there.
Culture and Heritage: Two strong potentials.
With its protected natural areas and its very significant culture, the eastern region has two major forces for its economy. Burkina Faso has also started development strategies to boost its sectors.
People: The Gourmantché
The Gourmantché people live mainly in Burkina Faso, Niger, Benin and Togo. This demographic distribution reminds us of the former frontiers of the Gourmantché territories. Today, most of the eastern region of Burkina Faso is the former Gourmantché country. The regional capital, Fada N'Gourma, is the city of the Gourmantché kingdoms. As the economic heart of the region, the city is also the home to some of the highlights of its ancient cultural traditions.
Quite mysterious origins
The first Gourmantché people are said to settle in the area coming from the current Nigeria. They have then found the Gobnangou cliffs as a strategic place to settle. Indeed, the soils are fertile and the cliffs could provide suitable hiding places in case of attacks. Water pours off some sources within the cliffs all the year round; which could permit the people to withstand and bear long term sieges. Walking through the cliffs, we find many troglodytes remains (houses, granaries, paintings and some kinds of mills).
The beginning of an ongoing suspicion about access to nature
The French and the Germans were competing to take over the territory in the early twentieth century. Once present in the Gourmantché country, they have raised the protectorate agreements with kings having various statuses in the region. Indeed, there was a large network of small vassal kingdoms under a powerful sovereign kingdom located in Fada N'Gourma. In the end, France managed to sign an agreement with the king of the Gulmu, stating its colonial occupation. In fact, the king had a higher authority over the king of Matiacoali with whom the Germans had concluded their agreements.
Between nature conservation managed by the administration and traditional community management
In 1935, some naturalists identified in the region a high potential for conservation. The authorities of the French West Africa had then raised large parts of the Gourmantché country to the rank of natural reserves or parks. The people who lived there were then ordered to move and leave these virgin areas far from any human activity.
Of course, people have experienced this as a deportation; which might be right. Today, the awareness of the people about the need for conservation is globally acquired, but debates still persist on the right methods. Furthermore, the legacy of the colonial time is still alive among some communities, who sometimes express it...