Gumuz in Ethiopia





Largest Religion

Main Language


Introduction / History

The Gumuz people were at one time considered slaves. During the 16th to the 19th centuries, they suffered oppression under the Turko Egyptian Empire, the Mahadist State in Sudan, and the Emperor Menelik in Ethiopia. This has prevented the Gumuz people group from developing and modernizing.

The Gumuz ethnic group lives in Ethiopia and Sudan. The Gumuz of Ethiopia live in the northern and western parts of the country near the Sudan border. Over 120,000 Gumuz in Ethiopia live in the "bush-savanna" region, an area covered primarily with bamboo and other small trees.

Ethiopia - once known as Abyssinia - is a rugged country located on the Eastern Horn of Africa, bordered by Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, and Sudan. Its dominant feature is a high, mountainous, central plateau, which is split diagonally in the south by the Rift Valley. This region is crossed by a number of rivers, the most notable the Blue Nile, which has its source in Lake Tana, and joins the White Nile at Khartoum, Sudan.

In the Gumuz area of Ethiopia, the land surface varies in topography from 550 to 2,500 meters (600-2700 yards) above sea level. The highest area is Belay Terara Mountain. The hottest months run from January to May, followed by the rainy season from May to October. The temperature ranges from 28-34° C (82-93° F.) in the hot season, while the average yearly temperature ranges from 20-25° C (68-77° F.). The average annual rainfall amounts to 800-1200mm (31-47 inches).

The tributaries from the Blue Nile provide great potential for irrigation, hydroelectric power, and increased farming in the future. Presently, only a few towns have electricity. While the area is rich in fertile soil, a mere 4.3% of it is cultivated. The presence of gold, copper, zinc, base metal, and marble resources ensures the economic future, provided they find ways to access and process them. At present, the communication systems throughout the area are very poor. In addition, the health coverage is met by two hospitals, three health stations, and 57 clinics. Malaria, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis are among the major diseases.

While many animals roam the area, such as lion, cheetah, elephant, antelope, buffalo, warthog, bushbuck, and duiker, there is no hunting reserve or wildlife park.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Gumuz language has ten dialects, but those who speak them can understand the others.

The Gumuz people hunt with bows and arrows. Most breed cattle or farm for a living. They farm their lands together as a clan. When a boy reaches the age of 16, he may work his own farm along with his father's. During the harvest season, they build huts on the fringe of the farmland and live there. They grow millet, sorghum, onion, cotton, tobacco, mango, and various spices. The staple food of the Gumuz is porridge flavored with a sauce made from leaves, onions, and spices. They supplement their diet with pumpkin seeds, peanuts, fruit, and some insects, and - like many of us - they like to drink coffee. Because they are farmers, trading is important to them, but the lack of roads makes this difficult. They trade most often with the nearby Oromo people. In exchange for their goods, they receive coffee, cloth, soap, salt bars, and other items.

The clannish nature of the Gumuz keeps their community cohesive, and when there is an infraction, the entire clan involves itself in the punishment. Discipline is meted out for such things as stealing, lying, and wife abuse, keeping drunkenness and idleness to a minimum.

When a daughter is ready for marriage, the clans perform a "sister exchange." That is, the newly married man gives his wife's clan a young woman from his own clan to "replace" the woman he married.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Gumuz are animistic, which means they worship the "spirits" of certain rocks, trees, and animals for good health, good crops, good luck, and protection. Rebba is their "supreme god who knows all." The Gumuz firmly believe that if a woman drinks milk, she will go bald, and if a man eats cabbage, he will be lazy. If a woman eats porridge while she is making it, they believe she or her husband will become ill.

What Are Their Needs?

The Gumuz have the New Testament but relatively few have heard the Gospel. But we are beginning to see a spiritual breakthrough among this group. SIM and other Ethiopian missionaries have begun helping the Gumuz to build roads, develop agricultural methods, begin a literacy program, and start a school (the great majority of the Gumuz are illiterate). All these projects have given them opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus. This area is ready to hear the gospel of freedom from spiritual oppression.

Profile Source:   SIM Serving In Mission 

People Name General Gumuz
People Name in Country Gumuz
Population in Ethiopia 257,000
World Population 347,000
Countries 2
Progress Scale 3.2
Least-Reached No
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Debatsa, Deguba, Ganza, Gombo, Hameg, Shankilla
Affinity Bloc Sub-Saharan Peoples
People Cluster Nilotic
People Name General Gumuz
Ethnic Code NAB62z
People ID 11992
Country Ethiopia
Region East and Southern Africa
Continent Africa
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 22  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Metemma area on Sudan border south through Gondar and Gojjam; along Blue Nile and south into Wellaga and Didessa Valley up to Leqemt-Gimbi Road; southwest of Addis Ababa, villages around Welqite (possibly 1,000).   Source:  Ethnologue 2010

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Enthologue Language Map

Languages & Dialects on file:  1  (up to 20 largest shown)
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
For Primary Language: Gumuz

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions Yes
New Testament Yes   (2003)
Complete Bible No
Audio Bible Online
Resource Format
Audio Bible teaching (GRN) Audio Recordings
Online New Testament (FCBH) Audio Recordings
Oral Bible Audio Recordings
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions

Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 20.00 %)
42.00 %
Ethnic Religions
54.00 %
0.00 %
4.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %

Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
20.0 %
60.0 %
Other Christian
0.0 %
20.0 %
Roman Catholic
0.0 %
Photo Source: Anonymous  
Profile Source: SIM Serving In Mission 
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more

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