Introduction / History The Sukuma people are the largest people group in Tanzania. The Sukuma live in the northwestern part of the country between Lake Victoria and Lake Rukwa. Their major town center is Mwanza, which is situated on the shore of Lake Victoria. Sukumaland consists mainly of dry savannah or semi-desert and the climate is subtropical. The Sukuma are closely related to the neighboring Nyamwezi people group. About 80% of the people still live in rural areas, although more and more people are moving into the major cities.
Most of the Sukuma people are subsistence farmers and cattle herders with sweet potatoes and millet as staple food. The main cash crops are cotton and tobacco. The majority of Sukuma people practice and are deeply rooted in animism. Every area of life, from naming their children to planting crops, is affected by their belief in the ancestral and other spirits. The Sukuma are presently about 42% Christian, and that number has been growing significantly in recent years. However, there is still a lot of syncretism with animism in Christianity. The Sukuma people in rural areas are especially poor, but they are able to meet their own subsistence needs. However, when drought comes to this dry savannah region, as it has recently, this area is hit especially hard.
The Sukuma also have a spiritual need – to be freed from the bondage and fear of spirit beings. Much of a Sukuma animist's life and resources is spent for the ancestor spirits and other spirit beings, because they are deathly afraid of them. Further economic detriment is caused to the society due to the view that a person must be using witchcraft if s/he is wealthier than those around him/her, so the successful move away.
Shinyanga and Mwanza regions; Kagera, Tabora, and Singida regions; some in Kigoma and Mara regions; between Lake Victoria and Lake Rukwa, to Serengeti plain, Kiya, Gwe; few in cities, 88% in the traditional area. (Source: Ethnologue 2016)