Introduction / History The Waama live mostly in the Atakora province of Benin; however, another smaller group live across the border in northern Togo in the Sansanne-Mango region. They live in the same vicinity as the Gangam and Gourmanchema and speak Waama, a Niger-Congo language. Very little specific detail is known about the Waama; however, it is known that they are closely related to the neighboring Natemba. These two groups share similarities in both language and culture.
Togo is a long, rectangular shaped country that lies along the Gulf of Guinea for 32 miles. The nation is narrow, with no point in width exceeding 75 miles. It is bounded on the west by Ghana, the north by Burkina Faso, and the east by Benin. Togo's coastal zone has tall grasses and low trees, while the Waama area in the north has dry, dusty plains alternating with well-watered grasslands. The expansion of a game reserve in this region of Togo provides for the hunting of many animals.
What are their lives like? Like many other tribes in Togo, the Waama are subsistence farmers. Corn, yams, cassava, pineapples, bananas, and peanuts are grown for personal use. Coffee, cocoa, and cotton are produced mainly for export. Agricultural methods are generally quite basic. Hunting, fishing, and the gathering of nuts and wild fruits provide additional food.
All tribes in the area keep some cattle, but they are generally not eaten. Instead, they are raised for their hides and manure, but almost never for milk. They are also used in sacrifices and as marriage payments. Other domestic animals, such as sheep, goats, dogs, and chickens, may also be kept. Waama men engage in hunting, clearing the land, and tending the livestock. The women gather forest produce and handle domestic duties such as cooking and caring for the children. Both sexes help in farm work and fishing.
Trade seems to be highly developed and regular markets are practically universal among the tribes in Togo. Women do most of the local market trading, while the men travel greater distances to larger, regional markets. Among the items traded are salt, onions, smoked or dried meat, rice, oil, and nuts.
Most Waama live in compact villages. They are grouped in circular walled compounds that usually house an extended family. Individual huts are round, having walls of mud or sun-dried brick and cone-shaped thatched roofs. Each local community has a ritual headman, who obtains his position by being the eldest male of the lineage that first occupied the village land. He is responsible for maintaining good relations with the earth and ensuring the welfare of his people. He stops feuding and warfare, since the spilling of blood on the earth is believed to contaminate it.
Waama marriages are arranged by the heads of two extended families while the girl is still an infant. Although no bride-price is required, a bride-service is demanded. Usually, the man must work on the girl's father's land from the time of the betrothal until the wedding and some time thereafter. When the bride begins living with the groom, the groom will donate gifts to the girl's family. Polygyny (having multiple wives) exists among the Waama, but each wife has her own hut where she raises her children. However, the first wife enjoys a superior status as chief wife.
What are their beliefs? Most Waama in Togo continue to follow their traditional, ethnic beliefs and practices. In their religion, many gods are worshipped. The spirits of their ancestors are also called upon in times of trouble. Cults, soothsayers, and diviners are consulted during times of sickness, poor harvest, or other disasters. Shrines for the ancestral spirits are located in family compounds. It is there that an appointed elder makes sacrifices for the family.
What are their needs? The majority of the Waama have not had an opportunity to hear the Gospel clearly presented. Evangelistic materials, missions works, and intercession are all desperately needed to see this group reached with the light of the Gospel.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to call missionaries who will be willing to invest their lives in the Waama of Togo.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Waama towards the Gospel message.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Waama who will boldly proclaim the Gospel.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray that strong local churches will be established among the Waama.