People-in-Country Profile

People Selector:
Print version:
Step 1 - Select a Country:   Send us your updates!
Step 2 - Select a People:  

Zarma in Nigeria


Send us a photo of this people.  [1]

Zarma in Nigeria map
Population [2] Language Religion % Christian % Evangl Online NT Jesus Film Progress
152,000 Zarma Islam 0.00 % 0.00 %   

Zarma in Nigeria

Profile Text
Submit Profile Text:

Introduction / History
The Zerma are often included in a larger group of people living in West Africa known as the Songhai. Some of the Zerma live in the southwestern part of Niger, while others occupy northern Nigeria, along the Niger River Valley. The Zerma and Songhai treat each other as cousins and frequently intermarry.

The Zerma may have originated from the country of Mali, emigrating southward centuries ago. They speak Zarma, a dialect of the Songhai from the Nilo-Saharan language family. These aggressive, aristocratic people are the second largest group in Niger. They are known as honest and hard-working by the neighboring countries.

The region the Zerma inhabit consists of sandstone plateaus, dome-shaped hills, and plains that flood easily during the rainy season. In this grassland region, freshwater swamps often give way to tropical rain forests. Animals such as leopards, lions, monkeys, and wild pigs roam about freely.

What are their lives like?
The Zerma are primarily dryland farmers, with their staple crop being millet. Cowpeas, sorrel, and other nuts are also grown in large quantities. Guavas, mangoes, bananas, and citrus fruits are abundant. Vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, okra, and potatoes are also raised on smaller plots or in gardens.

Many children are desired because individual farms are worked only by family members. The head of the household distributes fields to each individual for farming purposes. The Zerma also raise chickens and some cattle. The cattle are usually only slaughtered and eaten during religious ceremonies and festivals.

Some of the Zerma men travel South each year to distant towns where they trade along the Guinea coast. In those towns, the word Zerma has become synonymous with "cloth trader."

The windi (household) is the basic social unit among the Zerma, because it combines reproduction, consumption, and production within itself. A typical village house is either round and has mud walls, or is rectangular and has walls made of sun-dried mud bricks. The houses usually have straw thatched roofs. The oldest male is the head of the house. When a man has more than one wife, each wife has a separate dwelling for her and her children.

Zerma children are basically timid and a shameful expression is expected when they are conversing with superiors; they tend to look down when called. By age six or so, children are expected to know the difference between right and wrong, and they begin to do light work in preparation for their future role as adults. Boys usually tend to the farm animals, while girls care for the younger children. They also pound millet and sell food in the villages.

Zerma basketry is the most notable art in the culture. Daum-palm leaves have many uses: women make colorful mats and covers from them, and men make ropes. Women also make pottery and woven blankets.

What are their beliefs?
Although three-quarters of the Zerma profess to be Muslim, their Islamic beliefs have been intermingled with their traditional animistic beliefs (belief that non-human objects have spirits). The Islamic observances are led by marabouts (religious leaders who studied the Koran).

The Zerma follow the usual Islamic practices of prayer, fasting, and making sacrifices. However, they also take part in various cults, which involve spirit-possession, spirit worship, and magic. The cults are headed by priests who have been possessed by evil spirits and are said to have healing powers. The Zerma believe that there are several different types of spirits: those that bring illness or death; ghosts or "cold" spirits; and those who control the forces of nature.

What are their needs?
The Zerma of Nigeria have the Bible written in their language. However, they remain marginally Christian. Prayer is the key to reaching them with the Gospel.

Prayer Points
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to work among the Zerma of Nigeria.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Zerma.
* Pray that God will give the few known Zerma believers strength and boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a vigorous Zerma church for the glory of His name!

View Zarma in all countries.

Prayer Links
Global Prayer Digest: 2013-02-19
Global Prayer Digest: 2016-02-17
  Submit Update:
Country: Nigeria
Continent: Africa
Region: Africa, West and Central
Persecution Rank:12 (Only top 50 ranked, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
10/40 Window: Yes
Location in Country:Kebbi state: Argungu, Birnin Kebbi, and Bunza LGAs; Niger state: on Kontagora road; Yobe state: north of Nguru.
(Source: Ethnologue 2016)
Submit Map:
Country Map:Political map
Ethnolinguistic Map:University of Texas or other map
Linguistic Map:Ethnologue language map
  Peoples [3]
Submit Update:
People Name in Country: Zarma
People Name General: Zarma
Alternate People Names:
ROP3 Code: 111171
Joshua Project People ID: 16100
Indigenous: Yes
Population in Country: 152,000
Population all Countries: 4,571,000
Least-Reached: Yes
Affinity Bloc: Sub-Saharan Peoples
People Cluster: Songhai
People Name General: Zarma
Ethnic Code: NAB65c
Ethnic Relationships: Affinity Bloc -> People Cluster -> Peoples Ethnicity Tree
Submit Update:
Primary Language: Zarma (152,000 Speakers)
Language Code (ISO): dje    Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages: 1
Religion [4]
Submit Update:
Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religions:
Buddhism0.00 % 
Christianity0.00 %(Evangelical: 0.00 %)
Ethnic Religions4.00 % 
Hinduism0.00 % 
Islam96.00 % 
Non-Religious0.00 % 
Other / Small0.00 % 
Unknown0.00 % 
Christianity Segments:
Anglican0.00 %
Independent0.00 %
Protestant0.00 %
Orthodox0.00 %
Other Christian0.00 %
Roman Catholic0.00 %
(Evangelicals distributed across Christianity segments)
Progress Indicators [5]
Progress Scale[6]   Few evangelicals and few who claim to be Christians. Little, if any, history of Christianity.
Least-Reached: Yes
GSEC Status:Level 1   Less than 2% Evangelical. Some evangelical resources available, but no active church planting within past 2 years
Bible Translation Status
Submit Update:
Bible Portions: 1934
New Testament:
Complete Bible: 1989-1990
Possible Bible Sources: Forum of Bible Agencies
 World Bible Finder
 World Christian Resource Directory
 Gospel Go
Ministry Resources [7]
Audio RecordingsMegaVoice Audio Bible and Stories
Audio RecordingsAudio Bible teaching (GRN)
Audio RecordingsOnline New Testament (FCBH)
Audio RecordingsStory of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project ...
Film / VideoJesus Film: view in Zarma
Film / VideoKing of Glory movie
GeneralGod's Simple Plan
Text / Printed MatterOneHope resources for children and youth
Text / Printed MatterWorld Missionary Press Booklets
Ministry Activity
Register Ministry Activity:
Networking: Visit for networking possibilities.
Description: Register your ministry activity among this people group. Contact the Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse and Unleashed for the Unreached to learn about others that might be focused on this people group.
Data Notes
Data Sources

Zarma in Nigeria

Global                 Global
  Affinity Bloc             Global  
People Cluster
    Songhai     Africa, West and Central    
      Zarma Nigeria    
            People-by-Country (Profile)          
            Zarma in Nigeria          
      Religion Language  
      Islam     Zarma  
    All Religions                              

Direct link: