Introduction / History The Susu are a group of farmers, merchants, and fishermen who can be found primarily in Guinea, West Africa. Smaller communities are also located in the neighboring countries of Sierra Leone and Senegal. The Susu are descendants of the thirteenth century Mali Empire. They moved to their present location after 1725, when the Fulani attempted to dominate them and managed to convert them to Islam.
Their language, called Soso or Susu, serves as a major trade language in the region and is almost indistinguishable from the language of the Yalunka. Because of these linguistic similarities, some people think that at one time the Susu and Yalunka were one group, living in the Fouta Djallon ("Middle Guinea") region. It is thought that Fula invaders separated the two groups, with the Susu moving southward and absorbing other peoples in the process.
What are their lives like? The Susu are primarily farmers, with rice and millet being their two principal crops. Mangoes, pineapples, and coconuts are also grown. The women make various kinds of palm oil from palm nuts. They also make peanut oil and soap. All of the family members, including the children, are expected to do their share of the manual labor necessary for sustaining an adequate lifestyle.
In addition to farming, fishing and salt production are important enterprises to the Susu economy. Salt is produced during the dry season, and it can take up to three months of intense work to produce anything substantial. The Susa are also well known as merchants and craftsmen of leather and metal.
Susu houses are typically made of either mud or cement blocks, depending on the resources available. They are generally quite large in order to accommodate extended families. In the cities, roofs are most often made of corrugated iron; whereas in the rural areas, they are usually still made of thatch. Most cooking is done over open fires. Electricity is available in many places, but clean water is generally lacking. Humanitarian aid organizations are trying to help the Susu by digging wells throughout the area.
Although Western clothes can be obtained in the markets, most Susu women seem to prefer African dress. They usually wear African-style skirts that reach to their ankles. Older men wear loose-fitting cotton robes, but the younger men prefer Western-style clothing.
The extended family is very important in Susu society. Polygyny (having more than one wife) is allowed under Islamic law, but it is only practiced by those who can afford it. Although good relationships are valued, there are many conflicts with neighbors, especially when dealing with money or property. Thus, each village usually has its own "wise man," as well as an elected or appointed leader to help resolve conflicts.
The Friday meeting at the mosque remains an important social event for most Susu. There is some indication that the young men are perhaps growing disillusioned with both Islam and socialistic ideas. Today, many of them are moving to the cities, where they have been plagued with poverty and idleness.
Formal education follows the French academic system. In the past, the government attempted to offer education in the local languages but was alarmed at the high rate of illiteracy in French that resulted. Thus, today, instruction is offered only in French.
What are their beliefs? The Susu of Senegal are largely Muslim, and Islam dominates their religious culture and practices. Most Islamic holidays are observed, the most important being the celebration that follows Ramadan (a month of prayer and fasting). The remainder continue to practice their traditional ethnic religions.
What are their needs? Because of a history of Christianity in the region, the Susu have been somewhat evangelized. The New Testament is available in the Soso language, but there are only a few known Susu believers in this region. Prayer is the key to effectively reaching them with the Gospel.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to call loving Christians who will take the Gospel to the Susu of Senegal.
* Pray for the effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Susu, with many conversions resulting.
* Pray for the salvation of key Susu leaders who will boldly proclaim the Gospel.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask God to create a clean water supply for the Susu, and grant wisdom to those who are currently working on this project.
* Pray for the Susu living in urban areas to emerge from poverty.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a strong and growing Susu church for the glory of His name!