Map of Fulani Territory













Historically the Fulani have been a migrant pastoral people. They originated from either North Africa or the Middle East and then moved across Africa. Now they are found in sixteen countries across the Sahel belt from Senegal in the west to Sudan in the east.


The Fulani are grouped and named according to their location, occupation and dialect. Accordingly, there are five major groups divided into many smaller ones. There are three distinctive types of people among the Fulani - nomads, semi-nomads and a sedentary population.


The nomads, numbering about seven million, live on animal husbandry and trade, moving around according to the cycle of seasons. They keep cattle and sheep and exchange hides, meat and dairy produce for agricultural and manufactured goods. They move around in small bands and occupy temporary camps where they live in portable huts made of poles and branches covered with straw, leaves or mats.


The semi-nomads, numbering approximately twenty million are the largest group. Their lives revolve around two seasons - wet and dry, and around a strict division of labour based on gender.


During the rainy season the animals remain at a permanent settlement where they are herded by the men and boys. However, the women and girls milk and care for the animals. The men plant, look after, and harvest crops of millet, rice and peanuts. The women fetch water and wood, maintain the huts, weave mats, spin cotton, and make soap. During the dry season the younger men take the herds and look for water supplies until the rainy season starts.


The sedentary Fulani live mixed with other people groups in permanent villages. They too engage in agriculture.


The Fulani language is widely spoken in West Africa by other tribes as well as the Fulani. It has become a national language in Mali, Guinea and Niger. There are many dialects of the language.


The literacy rate among the Fulani is low, especially among the nomads. Oral literature is very popular, and stories of Fulani culture and tradition are passed on from one generation to the next.


The Fulani people are almost entirely Muslim. In fact they helped to spread Islam across Africa as they migrated.


Radio Gospel broadcasts in the Fulani language first started back in 1966. In recent years the New Testament in one of the dialects was published and other literature and Bible portions are now available. The Jesus film has also been dubbed into Fulani.