Half the population of Burkina Faso, or "land of the honest people," claims descent from the Mossi warriors who ruled over one of the most powerful empires in West Africa from the 11th to the 19th century. The landlocked country, desert in the north and savanna in the center and south, is home to 63 ethnic groups. Formerly known as Upper Volta, the French colony gained independence in 1960. Its mostly agricultural economy has been hurt by droughts and political instability. Parks protect the largest elephant population in West Africa and other wildlife.