The Fulbe People

Population 5,434,000

Religion: Muslim 99.9%

Christianity: <1%

The Fulbe of Guinea are a large people group located in the Western African nation of Guinea and in surrounding countries. The majority live in the Republic of Guinea in the Fouta Djallon region, an area of mountains and plateaus. They speak a Niger-Congo language called Fouta Djallon Pular. On the plateaus of the Fouta Jalon, there are grassy plains and fields of fonio, a local grain. Fulbe herders settled in this region over two hundred years ago and have since spread into other parts of Guinea and into surrounding countries. These Fulbe are a subgroup of the Fula or Fulani located throughout West Africa. Today the majority of this subgroup lives in urban centers and many are involved in commerce.

What are their lives like?

Farming is one of the main ways the Fulbe make a living. Staple crops include fonio, rice, and peanuts. Cattle herds, along with sheep and goats, are the primary livestock. The cattle are not the humped breed of other Fulani, but a native Fouta Jalon breed resistant to the disease carrying tsetse fly.

The majority of 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 Futa 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 is always to be respected and never to be 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 includes 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.