Introduction / History The Burba are commonly regarded as a sub-group of the Somba. They are concentrated in the Atakora Mountains in northwestern Benin and across the border in Togo, especially in the Sansanne-Mango region. They also reside in Burkina Faso. The Somba have been described as the "castle people" because of their unique two-storied houses. Although they are a highly individualistic people, they share many features and cultural traits with the Mande who were once predominant in the region.
Today, Benin is home to about 65 distinct people groups, with the Burba representing a tiny fraction of the total population. Very little is known about the Burba in particular. Nevertheless, historical accounts claim that they originated in Burkina Faso.
The name Burba was given to them by the French, but it seems they prefer to be known as the Bialaba. Their language, which they call Berba, is a member of the Niger-Congo family of languages.
What are their lives like? The Burba are farmers, growing millet, sorghum, and occasionally fonio (a sorghum-like grain) as the staple crops. Depending on the conditions, items such as melons, onions, bananas, cucumbers, eggplant, rice, taro, yams, tobacco, and tomatoes may also be grown. Farming methods are very basic, with the hoe being the primary tool for cultivation. Crops are rotated and fields are sometimes left fallow.
Hunting, fishing, and gathering (especially of shea nuts) all occur in the area, but provide only a modest supplement to the diet. Of considerably more importance is raising livestock. All the tribes keep at least some cattle, mainly of a hump-less, short-horned variety. Generally, cattle are used for sacrifices, marriage payments, and for hides and manure, but almost never for milk. Other domestic animals may also be kept, such as sheep, goats, dogs, and chickens.
Trade seems to be highly developed and regular markets are widespread among all of the tribes in Benin. Women do most of the trading in the markets as well as the gathering. Hunting is done by the men, and fishing, by both sexes. The men also tend to the livestock, clear the land, and perform the bulk of the agricultural work. The women, however, help in the fields when needed.
Most of the Burba live in neighborhoods of scattered family homesteads, with a few compact villages in different areas. Most of the tribes of the region live in round or rectangular mud or sun-dried brick huts with thatch roofs. The Burba, however, are unique in that their houses have two stories. It is not known how this particular style originated.
Few of the tribes in the region impose restrictions on premarital sex. Marriages are usually arranged by the heads of two extended families, often while the girl is still an infant. While the various Somba sub-groups do not require a bride-price, they do demand premarital bride-service. Polygyny (having more than one wife) is permitted and occurs frequently. Usually the first wife enjoys a superior status, but the other wives have their own separate quarters. The husband divides his time equally among all his wives.
What are their beliefs? Although some of the Burba are influenced by Islam, most still follow their traditional ethnic religion. They believe that there are many gods and that the stars contain supernatural forces. They have an extensive system of cults in which mystical power is explained and controlled. The Burba also believe that every person has an inner force that determines his own destiny. After death, this "soul" either goes to the sky to join the other mystical powers, or is "reincarnated" (reborn in another form). In addition, the dead are thought to influence the living; thus, sacrifices are made to gain their favor.
What are their needs? Although missionaries have made considerable progress among this people group, many of the Burba have yet to hear a clear presentation of the Gospel message. Much prayer and further evangelism are needed to teach them the way to eternal life.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord of the harvest to call full-time missionaries to minister to the Burba.
* Ask the Lord to soften the hearts of the Burba towards the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Burba who will boldly proclaim the Good News.
* Pray that God will give the Burba believers many opportunities to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a strong Burba church for the glory of His name! * Pray for the availability of the Jesus Film in the primary language of this people.