Tenbo in Burkina Faso

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

The Loron people, variously named Lorhon, Tenbo, Teguessie and Tuna, who are located in forested savannah region of northeast Cote d'Ivoire and southwest Burkina Faso, originally came from the Bouna region of Cote d'Ivoire. For continuity, we will call the Tenbo. Their language, which is called Teen, is 45% cognate with that of the Koulango people in the Bouna area, although their culture reflects that of the Lobi people.

At least 250 years ago, when many Tenbo people were killed in warfare with other tribal groups from the south of Cote d'Ivoire, the Tenbo fled the Bouna region. They moved north along the Black Volta river, and then west, and settled in the area that is now the town of Gaoua, Burkina Faso, about 100 miles (160kms) from Tenbo, Cote d'Ivoire.

When the Tenbo people moved into the Gaoua area from Ghana in the late 18th century, the Tenbo, like most other smaller ethnic groups in the region, adopted many of the customs of the dominant and more numerous Lobis. Although, to this day, the Tenbo people are still considered the 'Masters of the Land' in the Gaoua area.

To avoid conflict with their neighboring tribes, the relatively timid Tenbo went in search of new pastures. Most of the Tenbo people gradually migrated south, to the mountains which form the border between Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire, just below the Lobi town of Kampti. Approximately 100 years ago a large group of Tenbo people moved further south, out of the mountainous region and settled in a more fertile area, in Cote d'Ivoire, between Doropo and Tehini. This all happened, of course, before country demarcation lines were created by the French colonialists.

The Tenbo people are now concentrated mainly in the Sub-Prefecture of Tehini in northeast Cote d'Ivoire; and the province of Poni in southwest Burkina Faso. With a total population of between 10-12,000, approximately 70% of the Tenbo live in Cote d'Ivoire, and 30% in Burkina Faso. The Loron in Cote d'Ivoire are scattered over an area of about 2,000 square miles, just north of the Comoe National Park. In Burkina they are located mainly in the mountain area between Kampti and the Cote d'Ivoire border. Around 5% of the Tenbo, mostly young Tenbo males, live and work on the cocoa and coffee plantations of southern Cote d'Ivoire. They usually spend 1-2 years there, before returning to marry and settle down in their natal village.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The vast majority of Tenbo people are subsistence farmers, living in small villages of between 50-100 people. Families normally live in homesteads separated from other families by small planting areas. 'Two reaches of an arrow' represents an appropriate distance between two Tenbo family homesteads. The Tenbo in both Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso are probably among the least developed people groups in their respective countries. They normally live in isolated areas with little or no access to schools, medical facilities or potable water.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Tenbo people are animist in the sense that they believe that the inanimate objects that they create represent the spirit world. They fabricate fetishes, or idols, (punibo) from wood, clay or metal. Appeasing the demands of these spirits dominate every aspect of their lives. They believe God (Nyelye - sky) created everything, but 'it' has no further interest in people. They believe that a wide range of supernatural beings and invisible spiritual powers control and shape their lives. The Tenbo people offer sacrifices to their idols to ensure, among other things, an adequate food supply, protection from spirits which can harm or kill, healthy children and harmony in the community. The have many taboos and rituals that they need to respect throughout their lives in order to avoid sickness, death or misfortune.

What Are Their Needs?

Political uncertainty in Cote d'Ivoire sometimes makes a difficult situation for the Tenbo even worse. The few government schools which had been functioning in some of the Tenbo areas currently do not have appropriate staff or qualified teachers. Medical facilities are also very limited. Drinking water pumps have recently been installed in a number of new areas, but most Tenbo still get their water from local swamps and water holes. The potable water situation is only slightly better in Burkina Faso.

Prayer Points

Evangelism and Church Planting: New Tribes Mission (NTM) missionaries started working among the Tenbo people of Cote d'Ivoire in 1984. Evangelism in the Tenbo language began in 1992, and since then, approximately 400 Tenbo people in Cote d'Ivoire have become Christians. There are 10 groups of Tenbo believers worshiping, teaching, and fellowshipping together in the Tenbo language.
In Burkina Faso there are only a few isolated Tenbo Christians, and no functioning Tenbo churches. A series of chronological Bible lessons in the Tenbo language is currently being broadcast to the Tenbo people in Burkina Faso by RESO (Southwest Gospel Radio). Pray that many Tenbo people in Burkina Faso will respond to God's offer of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Literacy: Less than 100 Tenbo people are functionally literate, but 9 Tenbo literacy centers have been established in Cote d'Ivoire, and almost 200 people are learning how to read and write. Seventeen literacy teachers have been trained to teach the course. Some Tenbo villages in Burkina Faso have requested that literacy classes begin in their villages also. Pray that many more Tenbo people will become literate.

Scripture Prayers for the Tenbo, Loron in Burkina Faso.

Profile Source:   Joshua Project  

People Name General Tenbo, Loron
People Name in Country Tenbo, Loron
Natural Name Tenbo
Alternate Names Lorhon; Teen; Tégésie; Teguessie; Ténhé; Tense; Thuuna
Population this Country 4,700
Population all Countries 15,000
Total Countries 2
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group No
GSEC 1  (per PeopleGroups.org)
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
People ID 15339
ROP3 Code 109947
ROP25 Code 308063
ROP25 Name Tenbo
Country Burkina Faso
Region Africa, West and Central
Continent Africa
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank 20  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Sud-Ouest region: Poni province, Kampti subdistrict, 2 pockets west of Kampti.   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Country Burkina Faso
Region Africa, West and Central
Continent Africa
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank 20  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Sud-Ouest region: Poni province, Kampti subdistrict, 2 pockets west of Kampti..   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.50 %)
3.00 %
Ethnic Religions
95.00 %
0.00 %
2.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Teen (4,700 speakers)
Language Code lor   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Teen (4,700 speakers)
Language Code lor   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Teen

Primary Language:  Teen

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (1984-1995)
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 Paul Briggs 
Map Source Paul Briggs  
Profile Source Joshua Project 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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