Introduction / History
The North Fali live in the northern region of Cameroon, north central Africa. This area is also inhabited by a number of other small tribes and the large, dominant Fulbe people. Although the North Fali are related to the Fali of Nigeria, the two groups have very distinct languages. The Fali speak an Afro-Asiatic language called Bana, while the North Fali speak Fali Nord, a Niger-Congo language. Despite their linguistic differences, the two groups have similar customs, religious beliefs, and lifestyles. Both groups farm for their livelihood.
During the nineteenth century, the North Fali fiercely resisted Fulbe domination and fled into the Mandara Mountains, hills, and isolated valleys. Even today, the dominating power of the Fulbe persists. Many of the Fulbe despise the North Fali, sometimes forcing them to do their menial work. The North Fali remain resentful of this continued persecution.
What are their lives like?
The North Fali are primarily farmers. Their staple crops include sorghum and millet. Maize, rice, beans, potatoes, peanuts, okra, and watermelons are grown as secondary crops. Cotton, indigo, and tobacco are also raised. Most of the farmers keep a small number of cattle, donkeys, goats, sheep, and chickens. They provide the families with protein, milk, and wool and may also be used as religious sacrifices. Bees are also raised and honey is eaten regularly.
The North Fali trade some of their grains, peanuts, and livestock to the Fulbe for salt, bead, and other essential items. They also trade cotton to people of neighboring cities for fabrics and household utensils. They are well known in the region for their industrial arts of doll-making and clay carving.
North Fali villages consist of several round dwellings made of mud-brick and having thatched roofs. The buildings are connected to one another by woven straw fences or hedges, and are positioned so that there is an open area in the center. Each home has a kitchen, an attic, and a room for the husband; the wife lives in her own hut. Separate rooms are added to the house when the children reach puberty. Young single males are live in their own square huts until they are married.
Within each family compound is a storeroom-chapel. Special stones are placed inside the shrine to represent the family's ancestors. Most dwellings also have clay shelters, where people can gather to discuss family matters, play music, or fellowship.
The beauty of the body is very important to the North Fali. They are distinguished from other tribes by their colorful clothing. The men wear unique, rectangular-shaped loincloths, which are made from strips of cotton that have been sewn together. The front of the loincloth is carefully embroidered with colorful geometric patterns. The rest is decorated with glass beads and even pieces of pottery. Bracelets, necklaces, and other ornaments are also worn by both men and women.
What are their beliefs?
A majority of the North Fali have converted to Islam. They adhere to Islamic traditions, which include praying, fasting, and giving to the poor. Theirs is a religion of works based on the belief in one god, Allah, and in the teachings of his prophet, Mohammed.
Most of the others continue to practice their traditional ethnic religion. Their practices combine animism (belief that non-human objects have spirits) and ancestor worship (praying to the deceased for blessings, guidance, and protection). One month after a person dies, they hold a ceremony called the "festivity of the dead." They believe that the deceased is then reincarnated (reborn into another body) and that he will live forever under the ground, only returning through means of a special mask. These non-Muslim North Fali also believe in a creator god named Faw.
What are their needs?
Only a few of the North Fali in Cameroon have become Christians. Most of the North Fali have not yet heard a clear presentation of the Gospel. Prayer is the key to seeing them reached for Christ.
* Pray that missions organizations and churches will accept the challenge of adopting and reaching the North Fali.
* Pray that the few North Fali believers will rise to the challenge of taking the Gospel to their people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of Cameroon through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the North Fali who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* Pray that strong local churches will be established among the North Fali.