Barma in Nigeria

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

In the 1700s, the Barma's (or Bagirmi) ancestors ruled the Bagirmi Empire, a large area across Chad and into Sudan. The empire was situated between two competing kingdoms: Bornu to the west and Wadai to the east. At the end of the 1700s, the empire was attacked by Islamic Wadai armies and was never able to regain its political independence. In 1912, the Bagirmi Empire was incorporated into French Equatorial Africa. It remained under French rule until Chad declared its independence in 1960. They speak Baguirmi, a Nilo-Saharan language. The Barma occupy the territory between N'Djamena (Chad's capitol) and Bousso, a small city farther south on the Chari River. The region varies from wet and tropical to semi-arid. A smaller number of them live in northeastern Nigeria.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Most Barma rely on both fishing and agriculture as the basis of their livelihood. However, some individuals rely solely on one or the other. The fishermen spend each day at the Chari and Bahr Ergig Rivers, while the farmers work the fields outside their villages. Millet and sorghum are their main crops. They also grow beans, sesame, peanuts, cotton, and vegetables. Both men and women cultivate the land. The men maintain the large fields that produce the millet and sorghum. The women cultivate the vegetable plots, which are located either in or near the villages. Men fish, trade at the markets and build the houses. The women prepare the meals, care for the children and produce crafts such as pottery and baskets. Barma villages consist of "family households." The settlements range in size from 50 to 1,000 or more people. Typically, each village represents a common lineage or extended family. The Barma are known for having small families due to low fertility rates. This can be attributed to several factors, including sterility (caused by venereal diseases), the high divorce rate, and the large age differences between the husbands and wives. Since the labor force for each household is too small for an entire farm, the Barma regularly participate in inter-village work parties. There, the people work as one group for the good of the whole village. In previous times, parents arranged marriages. They did this to form alliances between villages or clans. Presently, the high divorce rate has made it difficult to establish such bonds. Today, if many suitors are interested in the same girl, they must perform a traditional marriage ceremony-simultaneously. The ceremony includes paying a "bride price" (money paid to the girl's family). The suitor who gives the most money is chosen to be the groom. In times past, young men did not have the ability to acquire money to pay the bride price. Today, however, many enter the market to sell cash crops or products of their labor. Others depend on older relatives to donate money. The Islamic courts and Chad's legal system settle disputes of the most serious crimes. The lesser ones are handled at the village level. Gossip, ostracism, and even sorcery and witchcraft continue to be a way of punishing people at the local level.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Barma have been followers of the Islamic faith since the sixteenth century. They are devout Muslims who read the Koran, say daily prayers, practice polygamy, and avoid alcohol. Some make a pilgrimage to Mecca if they can afford to do so. They have a mosque in each village where men gather for prayer and many towns have Islamic schools. Adolescent males attend the schools and are taught the laws written in the Koran. As far as we know there are no Christian believers among them.

What Are Their Needs?

The Barma people have social needs that bring harm to their communities. The high rate of STDs and divorce are causing problems in their families. They need the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome their challenges, but that will require them to surrender to the King of kings. The men especially need to turn to Jesus Christ for answers.

Prayer Points

Pray that the tragedies faced by the Barma people will awaken them to their spiritual needs that can only be met by allowing Jesus Christ to take control of their lives. Pray for a movement to Christ that will be a testimony of grace, mercy and love for those who are unwilling or afraid of his lordship. Pray for the Lord to show himself powerful to Barma leaders so they will know that true holiness and righteousness can come to their people.

Scripture Prayers for the Barma in Nigeria.

Profile Source:   Joshua Project  

People Name General Barma
People Name in Country Barma
Alternate Names Bagirmi; Lisi; Tar Barma
Population this Country 5,100
Population all Countries 153,000
Total Countries 2
Indigenous No
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
People ID 10692
ROP3 Code 101074
Country Nigeria
Region Africa, West and Central
Continent Africa
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank 6  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Borno state, Maiduguri LGA   Source:  Ethnologue 2010
Country Nigeria
Region Africa, West and Central
Continent Africa
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank 6  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Borno state, Maiduguri LGA.   Source:  Ethnologue 2010

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Ethnolinguistic map or other map

Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.00 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
0.00 %
100.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Bagirmi (5,100 speakers)
Language Code bmi   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Bagirmi (5,100 speakers)
Language Code bmi   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Bagirmi

Primary Language:  Bagirmi

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (2017)
Bible-New Testament No
Bible-Complete No
Possible Print Bibles
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name Source
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching Global Recordings Network
Photo Source Copyrighted © 2023  Pierre Laborde - Shutterstock  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Profile Source Joshua Project  
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Read more