Introduction / History In the 15th century there was an empire that controlled much of western and central Niger, and it was dominated by the Songhai-Zerma people. Today the Zerma are considered part of the larger Songhai cluster of peoples. The two groups treat each other as cousins and frequently intermarry.
Where are they located? The bulk of the Zerma people live in Niger, but they live in six West African countries, including Mali, which is just to the west of Niger. Their population in Mali is very small compared with the other countries.
What are their lives like? The most respected form of work for the Zerma people is farming. They raise millet, sorghum, beans, and peanuts as their staple crops. Each household also has its own garden where they grow vegetables. The Zerma people use basic, traditional farming tools without the aid of modern equipment like tractors. Many seasons their efforts are wiped out through pests or droughts. This people group has little time for leisure activity. They also raise livestock. A small number of Zerma people are fishermen, businessmen, or teachers.
As cultural Muslims, a man can take up to four wives, though this is usually reserved for older, wealthier men. When a man has more than one wife, each wife has a separate dwelling for her and her children. Zarma women must clean, cook, carry water, and care for the children. The household is the basic social unit among the Zerma. A typical Zerma home is either round with mud walls or is rectangular with walls made of sun-dried mud bricks. Most houses have straw thatched roofs.
What are their beliefs? The Zarma people identify with the Islamic religion, and they have been Muslim for centuries. Their culture and customs are tied in with Islam. However, they also practice traditional religion. Wearing charms and amulets, and consulting mediums are part of their lives.
What are their needs? The Zerma people have put their faith and trust in spirits that come to kill, steal, and destroy them. They need the One who comes to give them life to the full.
The Zerma people could have much better crops if they had modern farming tools.
Prayer Points * Pray for the JESUS Film and gospel recordings to be widely distributed among the Zerma people.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers to work among the Zerma of Mali.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to mission agencies currently focusing on the Zerma people.
* Pray for many Zerma elders to encounter the living Christ and lead their people to faith in the true savior.