Introduction / History The Fulani, or Fula, are a vast people group living throughout central and western Africa. Most are nomadic herdsmen, and almost all are Muslim. The Fulani have a Caucasian origin, which is evidenced by their copper-colored skin (the root word ful means "red"), straight hair and noses, and thin lips. They are separated and grouped according to language, location, and occupation.
As the Fulani migrated southward to and through Guinea Bissau during the fifteenth century, some mixed with the Mandingo in the area. Those who intermarried with the Mandingo were considered "black," or preto. These Fulani became known as "Fula preto," or Fulakunda.
The Fulani of Gambia are considered to be Fulakunda. They speak Pulaar, or Fula, from the West Atlantic branch of the Niger-Congo language family. They maintain close ties with both the Fulani in Fouta Tora, Senegal, and Fouta Djallon, Guinea.
What are their lives like? The area that the Fulani inhabit is a swampy region with lush vegetation. In the upper river areas, there are monkeys, pygmy hippopotamuses, and antelopes. Although the Fulakunda have mixed cultures and have intermarried with the "black" groups in the area, they still practice many of the customs and traditions of the "pure" Fulani. Their lives center around their herds of cattle or sheep. In fact, the more cattle one owns, the wealthier he is considered to be. In addition, some Fulani are hired as herdsmen for various kingdoms in the Sudan, just as their fathers were before them.
Mixing farming with herding, the Fulani consume grains and milk as their staple foods. Meat is seldom eaten. In fact, only during important formal events, such as the naming ceremony or at the birth of a first son, is beef consumed. Even then, it is usually eaten only for ceremonial purposes. Donkeys, chickens, and dogs are kept on the farms.
The wuro (village) is the center of Fulani society. It is there that the women do most of their work. They prepare the evening meal, which takes about four or five hours. They also gather grass and twigs for the construction of their huts. Milking the cattle and preparing butter are other important chores. The men herd the cattle and dig wells. Sons over the age of 15 assume their fathers' work. The young men are directed and supervised by their fathers.
At 15, a boy builds and begins living in his own hut, which he will eventually share with his first wife. Subsequent wives will each have a hut of their own. A girl is often "lent" to a man, to see if she will work well with the first wife. The prospective husband will visit and give gifts to the girl's family until the marriage is official.
Although they may lack a scholarly grasp on book knowledge, they are considered skilled social analysts. Some elders have traveled in many countries and know of the language, people, and culture of each.
What are their beliefs? The Fulani of Gambia are a Muslim people, following the teachings of Mohammed. They adhere strongly to virtues and good morals.
The Fulani think of the village as a place of rules and obligations-a place for socially acceptable behavior. The bush, on the other hand, is a place of freedom, where they can act according to their own needs.
The Fulani hate to feel alone. However, they tend to hide their feelings, and the need for love and companionship is not expressed in public. Only through songs is this need freely acknowledged.
What are their needs? The Fulani of Gambia are almost completely Muslim. Although some Christian resources are available, only a few Fulani have become Christians. On the whole, they are devoted to Islam, partly because they were responsible in helping spread it throughout much of Africa. Fervent prayer is needed to break the hold Islam has on their lives.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord of the harvest to send additional Christian laborers to work among the Fulani of Gambia.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Fulani.
* Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Fulani, with many conversions resulting.
* Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio in their area.
* Pray that God will call Christian educators to teach the Fulani how to read the Word of God.
* Pray that God will give the Fulani believers opportunities to share Christ with their families and friends.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth many fellowships of believers for the glory of His name!