Introduction / History The eastern sixth of Burkina Faso is an area generally characterized by heat and dryness. This is home for the Gourmancheba, Burkina Faso's third largest ethnic group. Major Gourmancheba populations are also found in Niger and Togo, and smaller groups in Benin. The physical climate of the region poses great challenges. The lack of adequate water is a stark reality for most Gourmancheba. Some aid organizations have drilled small, deep, bore wells in a few villages. But some women must walk as much as 5 kilometers for water from a dam or a small dug well, sources which are known to dry up before the rainy season begins. In general, the southern regions do not receive enough rainfall to grow surplus crops.
Education poses another great challenge for the Gourmancheba. They have one of the lowest enrollment rates in Burkina Faso. Yet there is hope as almost one half of the primary schools in the area have opened since 1980. Furthermore, there has been a growing interest in learning to read and write in their own language, largely through the efforts of a professor from the University of Ouagadougou. There is a great interest in using literacy to help meet practical needs. Publications in their own language include health pamphlets and a monthly newspaper.
SIM International has been at work in the area since 1930. They have a history of combining evangelization with physical ministries like health care. They have translated the New Testament, along with some commentaries. Literacy is taught in each church, where the publications are also sold. Old Testament translation is being done by nationals, with UBS supervision. Today there are over 40,000 Christians and churches of many denominations. The people as a whole, however, remain strongly tied to traditional practices including sun worship, and sacrifices to the spirits. Many Gourmancheba syncretize their traditional religion with Islam, believing in a powerful God who has no time for individuals.