The Fulbe People Old

Population 41.5 million

Religion: Muslim 99.9%

Christianity: <1%

The Fulbe, also known as the Fulani, Fula, or Peuhl, are a large people group numbering over 40 million located throughout West Africa. Large populations live in Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Sudan. They speak a Niger-Congo language called variously Pular, Pulaar, or Fulfulde depending on the dialect.

What are their lives like?

Traditionally, the Fulbe were nomadic cattle herders.  In many parts of West Africa, they continue their traditional lifestyle.  However, in in some locations, the Fulbe have settled down and turned to agriculture. Staple crops include fonio, rice, and peanuts. Cattle herds, along with sheep and goats, remain the primary livestock.

Many Fulbe today live in towns and cities, with the traditional mud walled hut replaced by brick and cement houses with corrugated metal roofs. Houses are often located in walled compounds where a man and one or more wives live with their children and other members of an extended family.

The Fulbe are patriarchal, but the mother exerts a certain amount of power in the day to day running of the house especially during the frequent absences of the father. The husband/father is the one to make all the important decisions and represent the family. The decisions of the father can be discussed, but the father must be respected and never proven wrong or embarrassed in front of his wives or children. The father/husband is considered the provider of food, clothes, shelter, and medicine, but often the wives are the ones who get involved in various money making adventures to make ends meet.

Families work together. It is part of their existence. The women rise early to sweep their houses before walking to the market. As soon as they return home, they begin the job of cooking, which can include lighting a charcoal or wood fire. If there is more than one woman in the compound, the ladies share the responsibility of cooking. For example, one cooks for three days and the other one cooks for three days. The children are often asked to draw water, gather wood, catch a chicken for dinner, wash clothes at the river, do dishes, and care for younger siblings. Staying in good favor with the family is important.

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