Introduction / History
The Bagirmi Fulani are a sub-group of the much larger Fulani, a tribe that is spread across much of West Africa. The Fulani are grouped and named according to their locations and occupations. The Bagirmi Fulani are a branch of the Fulani who occupy the Bagirmi region of south-central Chad. They have also spread eastward and are now in parts of the Central African Republic.
Their language, Bagirmi Fulfulde, belongs to the West Atlantic branch of the Niger-Congo language family.
Some believe the Fulani to be of Caucasian origin because of their straight hair and noses, thin lips, and copper-colored skin. It is thought that they came from North Africa or the Middle East as herdsmen centuries ago.
The Fulani live in a semi-arid, tropical zone. They are confined to an almost horizontal area across Africa, bound by the Sahara Desert to the north and by the disease-carrying tsetse fly to the south.
What are their lives like?
Combining farming with herding, the Bagirmi Fulani are semi-sedentary herdsmen. Unlike some other Fulani groups whose families travel with them, the Bagirmi Fulani maintain a home where they live for half the year. During the dry season, when grazing ground and water are scarce, they take their cattle from the homestead in search of greener pastures.
The head of the family, along with his wives and younger children, usually stay at home and tend to a small herd and the crops. The young married sons and their families leave with the rest of the cattle. Hence, the Fulani can move when they desire and can also pay kinsmen and laborers to tend to the home vegetable gardens. In this way, they can be rewarded and enriched by both herding and farming.
At the homestead, agriculture provides for the livelihood of the people, with pearl millet and sorghum as the staple crops. Corn, beans, peanuts, melons, and cucumbers are also grown. Horses, sheep, goats, chickens, and dogs are kept at the family farm, and wild rice is gathered from the fields by the women.
Family lineages settle in the same village and form family compounds. Polygyny (the practice of having more than one wife) is commonly practiced. A bride is sometimes picked according to the number of cattle she possesses, since cattle are a symbol of wealth among all Fulani.
At the markets, the Bagirmi Fulani trade their dairy products for grain, farm equipment, and cloth. The market also serves as a place for social gatherings. Village dances and ceremonies are held in the market.
What are their beliefs?
The Fulani were one of the first groups in Africa to convert to Islam. Today, the Bagirmi are almost exclusively Muslim. However, they still continue to practice many of their old Fulani traditions. To a Fulani, the important things in life are family, cattle, strong morals, and beauty. They also value an excellence in poetry, singing, and dancing.
To the Fulani, children are symbols of the future. For this reason, a special ceremony is held to celebrate the birth of a firstborn son and the naming of a son. The Fulani do not believe in an afterlife. Instead, they believe that a person lives from generation to generation through his children. With a son, a man's name and features will remain. Thus, if a Fulani dies without any children, he is believed to have died twice.
What are their needs?
The number of believers among them remains extremely small.
They especially need to know that an eternity does exist after death, and it is only through Jesus that they can obtain eternal life. Much prayerful intercession must be made for the hearts of the Bagirmi Fulani to be open and receptive to the truth of the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send dedicated missionaries to live and work among the Bagirmi Fulani of Chad.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies currently focusing on the Bagirmi Fulani.
* Pray that God will give the few Bagirmi Fulani believers opportunities to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise prayer teams who will fervently intercede for the Bagirmi Fulani.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong Christian fellowships among the Bagirmi Fulani of Chad.