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As in almost all sub-Saharan African countries, agriculture plays an important role in the economic life of Burkina Faso. The World Bank's 1983 report indicates that agriculture's contribution to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 41 percent in 1981 compared to 16 percent for the industrial sector. In 1980, exports of agricultural products (basically cotton, groundnuts, and livestock) accounted for 89 percent of total export earnings. The country is primarily agricultural, with nearly 90 percent of the population dependent on agriculture as a livelihood. Yet it is well known today that Burkina Faso, going into its third decade as a sovereign nation, is still facing, like its Sahelian counterparts, one of the biggest challenges of economic development: how to feed its growing population. Basically, the challenge is how to achieve what is usually termed "food security," which is defined by Haggblade as the ability to assure consumption of a nutritionally adequate diet to all members of a country's population. Although the government of Burkina Faso has not specifically outlined a set of food security goals, its actions since the early 1960's indicate that is equates food security with food self-sufficiency. A review of the statistical evidence reveals that the country is far from meeting its food security goals. Despite the government's concern to expand rice production, little is known about the behavior of both the production and the consumption of this commodity in the country. In general, the agricultural sector has until recently received very scanty attention from economists and statisticians. Agronomists and to some extent sociologists and geographers have examined in some detail the soils, cultural practices, land tenure systems, tools, and basic techniques used by farmers. Their efforts, however, have failed to produce much needed information such as crop acreages, yields, prices, and other data most relevant for policy formulation. Rice is among the least documented crops in the country with respect to the responsiveness of both the supply and the demand to factor changes.


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