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Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in the West African Sahel Zone with a growing economy. Raw materials exports (initially cotton and recently above all gold) contribute to gross national product, but the majority of the labour force (90 per cent) still works in agriculture. Harvests usually just about meet personal needs and vary greatly due to adverse climatic conditions. The population struggles with recurrent food crises.
Burkina Faso has succeeded in making major progress in the last 20 years in primary school education and drinking water supply. Nevertheless, almost half of the 17 million inhabitants lives below the poverty line. To reduce poverty, raise the quality of life for people and lessen dependence on international aid, the government has adopted a strategy for faster growth and sustainable development from 2011 to 2015 (Stratégie de Croissance Accélérée et du Développement Durable/SCADD). This development strategy also provides the basis for the cooperation programme, Programme Indicatif de Coopération (PIC), which regulates bilateral development cooperation with Austria. PIC concentrates on three, closely interconnected priorities:
A regional development programme in the Boucle du Mouhoun region in the West of the country combines these priorities.
The greatest challenges for national economic development are improving training and raising productivity. Austrian Development Cooperation therefore promotes practical and demand-led vocational training and the professionalisation of skilled crafts and farming.
With Austrian support, vocational training has been established as a separate sector in the Burkinan educational system. Particularly in remote rural areas, it is important that education is available outside the centrally directed school system. At two vocational schools since 2009, young people have been able to complete an agricultural training course geared to local needs in their own language. Their newly acquired knowledge has improved agriculture in the region and secured income and food supply.
Austrian Development Cooperation supports the trades sector by promoting well-organised associations, an advisory centre for craft enterprises and a skilled crafts development fund. Local development funds contribute to rural development in South-West and Centre-East Burkina Faso: Local cooperatives help the farmers to improve their cropping and marketing methods. This relieves the workload on women in particular and gives them more time for income-generating activities.
Decentralisation plays a major strategic role in development policy in Burkina Faso. The regional development fund in the Boucle de Mouhoun region has proved to be an effective way to foster ownership. Its special strengths are alignment with the needs of the population and the direct participation of target groups. The region and the partner municipalities now have their own development plans. The projects financed by the fund have achieved rapid success and had a sustainable, beneficial effect on the conditions of life of the people.
Burkina Faso has been a priority country of Austrian Development Cooperation since 1993. A foreign office was established in the capital Ouagadougou in 1996.