Although Burkina Faso is not self-sufficient in food, agriculture in Burkina Faso has tremendous potential. It employs the vast majority of the work force and accounted for an estimated 31 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2004. However, only an estimated 13 percent of the total land area is under annual or perennial crops. Government attempts to modernize the agricultural sector have met with some success, especially with cotton, whose export accounted for 51 percent of total exports in 2004. In 2004, about 85 percent of the 210,000 tons of cotton produced was exported. The resistance to improvement has been due mostly to the insufficient water supply and poor soil. Although total cereal production rose from 1,547,000 tons in 1990 to 3,063,000 tons in 2004, imports are needed to meet demand.
In the early 1980s, local labourers constructed a 1,144-km canal to bring water for irrigation from the Black Volta to the newly constructed Sourou Dam. This work was part of a plan to establish 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) of irrigated land for smallholders and state projects.
Production figures for principal subsistence crops in 2004 were sorghum, 1,481,000 tons; millet, 881,000 tons; corn, 595,000 tons; and rice, 95,000 tons. Commercial crops (with 2004 production figures) included cottonseed (315,000 tons), groundnuts (321,000 tons), cotton fiber (210,000 tons), and sesame (29,000 tons).
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