Introduction / History The Gusilay of Senegal are located in the southeastern region of the country along the border of Guinea-Bissau. The various people groups in this region of Africa are collectively known as the Sene-Gambians because most reside in Senegal and Gambia. Some, however, live in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, and Mauritania.
The population of Senegal includes many diverse ethnic groups, the largest of which are the Wolof, the Fulani, the Tukulor, the Serer, the Diola, and the Malinke. Although agriculture is the main source of livelihood in Senegal, less than one-third of the land is suitable for farming. Nevertheless, Senegal is ranked among the world's largest producers of peanuts.
A number of scholars have linked the Gusilay to the neighboring Balante tribe, who are a sub-group of the Jola. The Gusilay language, also called Gusilay, is part of the Niger-Congo language family.
What are their lives like? Peanuts and peanut oil provide a significant share of yearly export earnings for the people of Senegal. However, this has declined in recent years from 29% of earnings in the early 1980s to 12% in the early 1990s. Attempts are being made to diversify agriculture and to achieve self-sufficiency by expanding rice and tomato cultivation.
While little detail is known about the specific lifestyle of the Gusilay, it is assumed that they are subsistence farmers like most other West African peoples. They grow a variety of crops, using very basic tools. Maize, manioc, and rice are the staple crops, but squash, melons, sweet potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes are also grown. Major tree crops include bananas, coconuts, mangoes, and papayas. The Gusilay raise cattle, sheep, and goats, but do not use their milk. Dogs and chickens are seen in almost every village. Hunting is of less importance than agriculture, but there is considerable gathering of wild fruits and roots; berries; and kola, shea, and palm nuts.
The Gusilay live in extended family compounds, each consisting of a cluster of huts that are arranged in a circle around an open space. Often the entire compound is surrounded by a fence, hedge, or wall. The compounds usually adjoin to form compact villages. In general, the dwellings are round with mud walls and cone-shaped, thatched roofs. However, many local variations exist.
In the Gusilay community, men hunt, fish, clear the land, and tend to the cattle. The women do the gathering and help some in the agricultural work. Chiefs exercise political authority in the villages. Succession usually passes to the next brother, or to the oldest son of the deceased chief's oldest sister.
Circumcision of males is practiced, and some female circumcision is also continued. These practices are mainly associated with initiation ceremonies at puberty and typically involve a period of instruction in an isolated "bush school."
The Gusilay prefer cousins as marriage partners. A bride-price in livestock, usually pigs, is paid, and premarital bride-service is also often required. Polygyny (having more than one wife) occurs to only a limited extent. In such cases, however, each wife has her own hut, and the husband spends a fixed period with each on a rotation basis.
What are their beliefs? The Gusilay are largely Sunni Muslim. As such, it is assumed that they follow the basic precepts of Islam. These include belief in one god (Allah), daily prayers, fasting (especially during the holy month of Ramadan), almsgiving, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once, if possible. Another one-quarter of the Gusilay are ethnic religionists, practicing various tribal religions.
What are their needs? The Gusilay need Christian resources in their own language. Discipleship materials are needed to ensure the continued growth of the Gusilay believers.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to send additional laborers to work among the Gusilay of Senegal.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to any missions agencies currently working among the Gusilay.
* Pray that signs and wonders will follow the Gusilay believers as they share Christ with their own people.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a vigorous Gusilay church for the glory of His name! * Pray for translation of the Bible to begin in this people group's primary language. * Pray for the availability of the Jesus Film in the primary language of this people. * Pray for Gospel messages to become available in audio format for this people group.