Introduction / History
The Teda of Niger are a race of desert warriors living in the eastern and central Sahara Desert. They are considered to be very tough, solitary mountain and desert people and have often clashed with neighboring groups. In many places they are regarded as foreigners in their own countries.
Traditionally, the Teda controlled the caravan trade routes that passed through their territory. They were known for plundering these caravans and trading slaves. Even now, some of them do not consider a Teda to be a man until he has killed another man. Stealing and killing are fairly acceptable in their culture and are even respected in some ways.
Teda culture gives little respect to agricultural work. Reluctant to rely on cultivation, they depend on a flexible nomadic system for survival. Their property system favors mobility and military strength over securing land and farming it. As a group, the Teda are divided into many clans, based on a common male ancestor.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Teda are primarily herdsmen, but they do practice some agriculture, when neccessary. Those who farm do not practice crop rotation or use plows to cultivate the land. Some irrigation is always necessary for the crops, and animal manure is used as fertilizer. The date palm is the main food plant: a single tree can produce 45 pounds of dates per year, and a man can eat several pounds a day. Milk from goats, sheep, and camels is another basic part of their diet. Vegetables, grains, fruits, legumes, and root crops are also grown. In addition, many Teda must hunt with dogs and gather wild fruits and seeds to further supplement their food supplies. Dates are the main food in the spring and summer, milk products during the late summer and fall, and gathered fruits and seeds in the winter.
Livestock is the main source of wealth in Teda society. Camels and goats are the most common animals kept. Camels are used by the nomads, while the settled farmers primarily raise goats. Some donkeys, sheep, dogs, chickens, and pigeons are also raised. The men are responsible for herding the camels, as well as for hunting and trading. Women tend to the goats and till the soil, but most farm work is done by slaves.
There are six social classes in Teda society: nobles, commoners, dependent farmers, metal workers, servants, and slaves. Marriages involve the payment of a substantial bride-price, which consists of livestock. The price may range from one sheep to ten camels, with two camels being the average. Part of this payment is given to the newlyweds to help them set up their own household. Polygamy (having more than one spouse) is permitted, but rarely practiced. The Teda live in patriarchal (male-dominated) extended family units. The oldest man in the family has authority until his death.
Most Teda live in small communities with less than a few hundred inhabitants. The more settled groups who live in the villages are not there for the whole year. Generally, they live in round huts with stone or mud walls. The huts have cone-shaped thatch roofs supported by a central post. The nomadic Teda often live in rectangular or oval-shaped tents that have wooden frames and mats made of palm leaves or animal skins. Sometimes, they use caves for shelter while looking for pasture.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Teda are practically all Muslim. However, prior to their conversion, they were animists (believed that non-living objects have spirits). They converted to Islam in the 1800's, but only after almost 1000 years of contact with Arab Muslims. Their animistic background, however, seems to have been incorporated into their Muslim practices. Today, the Teda follow the Islamic calendar, including fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Both men and women faithfully say daily prayers, and more of them are now making pilgrimages to Mecca.
What Are Their Needs?
Most of the Teda have never heard a clear presentation of the Gospel. Only a very small number have received Christ.
* Ask the Lord to raise up additional Christian workers to join the few who are already working among the Teda of Niger.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Teda.
* Ask the Lord to soften the hearts of the Teda towards the Gospel message.
* Ask God to raise up an army of prayer warriors who will stand in the gap for the Teda.
* Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Teda.
|Profile Source: Bethany World Prayer Center|