Yalunka in Senegal

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

The Yalunka are one of the original inhabitants of the Futa Jallon (or Fouta Djalon), a mountainous region in West Africa. The region is the source of the headwaters of the Gambia, Niger, and Senegal Rivers. The Yalunka are also known as the Dialonke or Jallonke which literally means "inhabitants of the Jallon (mountains). " In the eighteenth century many of the Yalunka were dispersed by the Fulani, a powerful people group in the region. Their language, also called Yalunka, belongs to the Mandingo branch of the Niger-Congo language family. Yalunka is easily understood by those who speak Soso, another Mandingo language. In fact, the Yalunka often refer to themselves as Soso, and some scholars see the two as one group. Today, the Yalunka are concentrated mostly in the country of Guinea. Some also live in Senegal, southwestern Mali, and northeastern Sierra Leone.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Most Yalunka settlements are located in the valleys between the hills. The Yalunka region has tall grass with a few trees and some bush areas. The country is hilly, and most of it is 1,000 to 2,000 feet above sea level. Since the 1950s, many Yalunka have migrated to cities such as Freetown to find wage-paying jobs. Many Fulani and Mandingo have moved into the Yalunka region, creating a multi-cultural environment. The Yalunka in Senegal are primarily subsistence farmers, with rice and millet being their staple crops. They grow peanuts, sweet potatoes, maize, and beans as well. They have chickens, herds of cattle, and flocks of sheep and goats. Goats and cattle are especially important because they serve as bride-price payments. The animals are given to the girl's family before the marriage takes place. These animals are also valuable as a means of economic exchange and are used for providing milk. Among the Yalunka, the children herd the cattle, the women milk the cows, churn the butter, and help the men in some of the agricultural work. Honey is another important commodity among the Yalunka. They gather honey by suspending large water-tight baskets in trees. The bees use the baskets as hives. Every year, they gather between four and six gallons of honey from each basket. The Yalunka in Senegal prefer to live in large settlements and villages. Many of the large settlements have remained in their current locations since the eighteenth century. The Yalunka society is basically patriarchal which means that the family households are headed by the men. A household typically consists of a man, his wife or wives, and their unmarried children. The family is the major social unit for the Yalunka in Senegal. Extended households, which consist of two or more married men and their families, may also adjoin the nuclear family, forming an extended family compound. The Yalunka live in round huts that have brick walls and cone-shaped, straw-thatched roofs. Within the village or settlement, the huts are grouped in compounds around a courtyard and are surrounded by a fence. Polygyny (having multiple wives) is a common practice among the Yalunka. According to Islamic law, a man may have up to four wives. However, his first wife has authority over any subsequent wives. The husband has complete control over his wives but he also has the responsibility to feed and clothe them. He also helps the wives' parents when necessary. The wives' duties include maintaining the house, preparing the meals, washing the clothes, and helping with the farm work.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Yalunka in Senegal are nearly all Muslim, but they have a love/hate relationship with Islam, a religion forced upon them by conquerors. At one point they renounced Islam but embraced it again after being conquered by a more powerful Muslim people. Although they follow most of the religious teachings of Islam and observe its rituals and ceremonies, they retain many pre-Islamic beliefs. They practice Barinkiina, involving making sacrifices to their ancestors with the goal of gaining power. They continue to believe in N'iena (nature spirits) and make regular sacrifices to them. Some of the N'iena are said to be good spirits, helping with rice production and fertility in women, while others are believed to be evil, living in the bush and stealing children from their parents. The Yalunka also believe that witches have the power to change into animals and cause harm to the villagers. Some put curses on victims' houses to ruin their crops. Diviners or sorcerers perform special rituals to keep the witches and evil N'iena away from farms and households.

What Are Their Needs?

The Yalunka have the Bible translated into their language. Fear of persecution has prevented all but a few Yalunka from putting their faith in Christ. They need consistent missionary effort and people who will faithfully intercede for them, tearing down the strongholds that are keeping them in spiritual bondage. Only then will their hearts be prepared to receive the gospel as it is presented to them.

Prayer Points

Pray for believers who understand and appreciate Yalunka music to write songs for them that will teach lessons from the Bible. Pray for Holy Spirit anointed workers to go to the Yalunka people in Senegal. Pray for the Lord to provide for an abundant harvest as a testimony of his goodness and sovereignty. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts and minds of Yalunka leaders in Senegal so that they will open the door to people giving Christ the kingship of their lives. Pray for a Disciple Making Movement among the Yalunka people in Senegal.

Scripture Prayers for the Yalunka, Dialonke in Senegal.

Profile Source:   Joshua Project  

People Name General Yalunka
People Name in Country Yalunka, Dialonke
Natural Name Yalunka
Alternate Names Diallounke; Dialonke; Jalonka; Mali Yalunka; Yalun Soso
Population this Country 15,000
Population all Countries 214,000
Total Countries 4
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group No
GSEC 1  (per PeopleGroups.org)
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
People ID 15967
ROP3 Code 110950
ROP25 Code 308918
ROP25 Name Yalunka
Country Senegal
Region Africa, West and Central
Continent Africa
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Kedougou region: intersection of Mali, Guinea, and Senegal borders.   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Country Senegal
Region Africa, West and Central
Continent Africa
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Kedougou region: intersection of Mali, Guinea, and Senegal borders..   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Map of Yalunka, Dialonke in Senegal
Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.05 %)
0.15 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
0.00 %
99.85 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Yalunka (15,000 speakers)
Language Code yal   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Yalunka (15,000 speakers)
Language Code yal   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Yalunka
Photo Source Anonymous 
Map Source People Group location: IMB. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.  
Profile Source Joshua Project 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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