Introduction / History The Idaca of Benin are located in Zou province of the south-central part of the country. Although Benin is home to about 64 distinct peoples, the Idaca represent a small percentage of the population. They are surrounded by numerous other tribes, all with a similar lifestyle. While most of the groups of the region are highly individualistic, they share many features and aspects of culture with the once predominant Mande people group.
The nation of Benin became independent from the French in 1960, but the seventh coup after independence brought a repressive Marxist regime. However, change is slowly occurring, and the Church in Benin is experiencing significant growth.
The Idaca speak a language called Idaaca, which belongs to the Niger-Congo language family. Very little is known about the Idaca in particular; thus, some assumptions have been made about their lifestyle based on similar groups living in southern Benin.
What are their lives like? Like most of the other tribes in Benin, the Idaca are subsistence farmers, growing millet, sorghum, and occasionally fonio (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, such as sheep, goats, dogs, and chickens, are also sometimes kept.
Trade seems to be highly developed, and regular markets are widespread among the tribes in Benin. Women do most of the market trading 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 whenever needed.
Most of the Idaca 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.
Few of the tribes in the region impose restrictions on premarital sexual relations. 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 Idaca in Benin have accepted Christianity, 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 Idaca also believe that every person has an "inner force" that determines his destiny. After death, this "soul" either goes to the sky with the other mystical powers or is reincarnated. In addition, the dead are thought to influence the living; thus, sacrifices are made to gain their favor.
What are their needs? Although some progress has been made among the Idaca, many 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 Idaca of Benin.
* Ask the Lord to soften the hearts of the Idaca towards the Gospel.
* Pray that God will give Idaca believers many opportunities to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a strong and growing Idaca church for the glory of His name! * Pray for completion of Bible translation in this people group's primary language.