Introduction / History Many centuries ago, the vast number of Fulani tribes migrated from northern Africa and the Middle East into Central and West Africa. Today, most of them are semi-nomadic shepherds who travel with their flocks, always searching for better grazing land. The Sahara Desert forms their northernmost boundary, while the tsetse flies limit their movement to the south. Over the years, some of them have moved from being exclusively shepherds, to being scholarly, influential leaders in their communities.
The Fulani tribes are grouped and named according to their locations, occupations, and dialects. The Liptako Fula are a branch of Fulani living in the Macina district of central Mali and northern Burkina Faso. They have lighter skin, thinner lips, and straighter hair than other African groups that live near them. This suggests that they are of Caucasian origin. They speak Masina, a Niger-Congo language.
What are their lives like? The hot, tropical climate of the Macina district provides wet and dry seasons, and these seasons dictate the lifestyle of the Liptako. They are a semi-nomadic people, mixing farming with shepherding. During the dry season, which lasts about four months, the young men usually move the herds of cattle, sheep or goats to the flood plains in search of better grazing land. They camp in portable shelters made of poles or branches covered with straw, leaves, or mats.
While the young men are migrating with the herds, their wives, and the younger children stay at the homestead with the family elders, tending to the gardens. They raise a variety of vegetables, but their staple crops are rice and millet. A few animals such as horses, donkeys, chickens, and dogs also live on the farms.
In the wet season, the herds and the families remain in the villages. Villages are made up of extended families who form a compound. Their homes are made of flexible poles and a center post supporting a thatched roof. Around every compound is a thorn fence. Each of the Liptako bands, whether nomadic or settled, is governed by an elder. The elder answers to a village chief who lives in the center plaza of the village.
The herds are a very important asset to the Liptako. Milk from the cattle and goats provides the main portion of their diet. Butter is made and also sold at the markets. Meat is only eaten at important festivals or ceremonies. The Liptako raise both long-horned and short-horned cattle. Two types of sheep are also raised: one with hair and one with wool. The wool sheep are important for trade, and indicate the economic status of their owners.
Values such as valor, bravery, and strength are important to the Fulani. This is shown in one interesting Liptako custom known as sharo. This custom tests a young man's adulthood. If two young men desire to marry the same woman, they must beat each other with canes until the less persistent suitor is eliminated.
What are their beliefs? Virtually all of the Liptako are Muslims. Children are taught religious foundations in Islamic schools. However, the elders are responsible for teaching them tribal values and traditions. The elders thrive on telling tribal stories to the next generation. To the Fulani, children are the future. They do not believe in an afterlife, so children are the only means by which they can live on from generation to generation. They believe that through their sons, their names and features will remain. If a Fulani dies with no children, it is as if he dies twice.
What are their needs? The New Testament has been translated into Masina, the Liptako language. The Jesus film and audio recordings are also available. However, very few of the people have accepted Christ. Much prayer is needed to break the Islamic stronghold that is over their lives.
Prayer Points * Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray for God's wisdom and favor to surround missions agencies focusing on the Liptako.
* Pray that God will strengthen, encourage, and protect the Liptako believers.
* Ask the Lord to give these converts a vision to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of these precious people to the Gospel message.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Liptako Fula.