Introduction / History
The Futa Jalon (also known as the Fula Jalon) are a large people group located in the western African nations of Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Senegal. A small population resides in Guinea Bissau. They are one of the sub-groups belonging to the vast Fulani cluster. Most of the Futa Jalon live in the Fouta Djalon of Guinea, an area of mountains and plateaus. They speak a language called Fouta Dyalon (or Fulbe), which belongs to the Niger-Congo language family.
Fulani herdsmen settled in the Fouta Djalon region over two hundred years ago, and have since spread throughout western Africa. Those who remained in the area became known as the Futa Jalon. Whether in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Mali, or Senegal, the culture of the Futa Jalon is virtually identical.
Senegal's Futa Jalon live in a small, tropical area with a brief wet season. Temperatures are extremely hot, and can reach above 100ºF. The forests are dense, and there are grassy plains along the plateaus of the Fouta Djalon that serve as part-time pastures for their herds.
What are their lives like?
Most of the Futa Jalon work as farmers and raise livestock. Cattle are raised in large numbers along with sheep and goats. Gathering, hunting, fishing, and trading are also part of their daily lives. Staple crops include millet, rice, and peanuts. Cattle herds, along with sheep and goats, are the primary livestock. The cattle are not the usual Fulani humped breed, but a native Fouta Djalon breed called Ndama, which is resistant to the disease-carrying tsetse fly.
There are clear labor divisions among the Futa Jalon. The men are responsible for herding the cattle, while the women milk the herds. Women also tend to other small livestock in addition to their garden work. The women often carry containers of milk and cheese to local markets to sell or trade.
Futa Jalon girls remain with their mothers until they marry. However, once a young man reaches puberty he leaves the family farm to prepare a home for his future family. A man's first marriage is usually arranged by his father, and the groom must offer bride-services to his wife's family by helping her father with his livestock. First marriages often take place in the man's early twenties. However, more marriages usually follow since, according to Muslim tradition, a man is permitted to have as many as four wives.
Futa Jalon children belong to "age-sets" until they marry. An age-set is a three or four year interval, with every child born in those years belonging to the same set. The children in an age-set usually work together in the community, and they go to school together. Each age-set has a head, a deputy, and a judge.
Futa Jalon villages are widely scattered throughout the Fouta Djalon region. Each village has a central court and a mosque. Houses belonging to the settled Futa Jalon are typically round with mud walls and thatched roofs. Each hut has an encircling veranda. The nomadic Futa Jalon live in open, beehive-shaped huts without walls or verandas. Each hut is surrounded by a cattle corral. In each village, a headman handles village affairs and answers to a chief.
What are their beliefs?
The Futa Jalon of Senegal are almost entirely Muslim. Keeping with traditional Islamic customs, they worship Allah and follow the teachings and instructions of the Koran, which is a collection of Mohammed's writings. Today, many of the Futa Jalon children attend Islamic schools. The Futa Jalon became rooted in their Muslim faith centuries ago and are very resistant to change.
What are their needs?
Evangelization efforts have not been very successful, and there are only a handful of known Futa Jalon Christians. Prayer is the key to seeing these precious people effectively reached with the Gospel.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Futa Jalon.
* Pray that God will give the small number of Futa Jalon believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to create a hunger for the Truth within the hearts of the Futa Jalon.
* Pray for the salvation of Futa Jalon leaders who will boldly declare the Gospel to their own people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of Senegal through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth many fellowships of believers for the glory of His name!