What's a Fulani?

New Fulani

The Fulani are the world's largest migratory people. Because of their language, lifestyle, and cultural identity, they see themselves as distinct from and superior to most other cultural groups. There are more than 25 million Fulanis in West Africa, but fewer than 2000 know Jesus. The IMB is reaching out to Fulanis in several countries with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Fulani are the cattle providers for West Africa. They get much of their identity from being migratory cattle herders. Fulanis are always concerned about their herds, and may treat certain cows like children. The Fulani life can be hard and they like to be identified as rugged, stoic, types. They strongly hold to their cultural traditions and practices. Non-Fulanis often distrust them because Fulani society is close-knit and a little mysterious.

The Fulani are part of a very diverse group also known as Fulbe," "Peul," "Fula," and other names such as "Pullo." They call themselves Fulbe. As they spread across West Africa, isolation from their forebears produced different cultural sub-groups. Some Fulanis have even abandoned herding and are now fishermen! Others are educated, urban people. Now there are 28 major groups of Fulanis who speak one of eight major dialects of their language, Fulfulde. The Fulani discussed on this site are mostly the rural or bororo Fulani of Nigeria.

Imagine trying to raise cattle in the dry region just south of the Sahara Desert! The Fulani (foo-lon-ee) people group has spread across Africa, bringing Islam into every area they live. Today, the Fulani are a dominant Islamic force in West Africa and one of the largest unevangelized people groups in the world.

Read a little of their language

See what Fulanis look like


A typical Fulani day


What's a Typical Fulani Day?

The Fulani day begins early. The adults awaken about 4:30 AM for prayers.
Most adults say Islamic prayers five times during the day. The men spend the morn-
ing milking their cows and getting ready to go to the bush with the cows. The women
prepare a meal, eaten about 10:30 AM. The meal, like most Fulani meals, will be a
corn mush with meatless gravy.

Men - After eating, the younger men go to the bush with their cows. The typical
family will have 12-100 cows + numerous sheep and goats. The young men will
keep their cows out of farms and help them find forage and water. Older men go
to town or visit their friends. During farming season, men work hard tending their
crops. The Fulani life is very segregated: men and women don't associate during
the day.

Women and Children - The women carry the milk to town in basin-sized gourds
to sell. They also collect firewood and haul the day's water for their families. Most
homes consist of a male leader, one or more wives, 6-12 or more children, + other
family members.

Evening - In late afternoon the cows return and are tied up for the night. The family
eats supper about 8:00 PM. They chat around their fires until bedtime and often turn
in early! Women, children, and older men usually sleep in huts. Teenagers often sleep

Fulani Statistics (1999)*

*All statistics about people in developing countries are controvertible. Different groups often come up with numbers that can vary tremendously. For example, see the estimates for number of Fulanis in West Africa, below. In most cases, the numbers on this site reflect the data generally accepted by missionaries living in West Africa.



Fulani Population in West Africa**

(all sub-groups)

Est. 18-35 million,
25 million
(generally accepted)

Nigeria-related Data

Fulani Population**

12 Million (Generally Accepted)


Two Thirds Settled, One Third Migratory

Number of Known Christians**

Less than 1000

Number of Missionaries working full-time among Fulani in Nigeria

Southern Baptist/IMB- 10

Other agencies- Less than 25

**These statistics from the Nance Profiles at www.premier.net

For more-detailed information click on: http://www.premier.net/~bethany/profiles/clusters/fulani.html

Many great links are included on that site. If you go there, use your browser's back arrow to return here.

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