Bozo, Jenaama in Mali

Map Source:  People Group location: IMB. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.
People Name: Bozo, Jenaama
Country: Mali
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 412,000
World Population: 457,000
Primary Language: Bozo, Jenaama
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 0.03 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: Portions
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Soninke
Affinity Bloc: Sub-Saharan Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

Bozo comes from the Bambara term for straw house; it's a reference to dwellings in temporary fishing camps. People use this term for an entire ethnic group. "Bozo" is really three distinct people groups speaking four varieties of the so called Bozo language. One of these is Jenaama, the language of the Jenaama Bozo people.

The Bozo tribes live mostly in the Mopti region in the interior delta but also live in other parts of Mali and other West-African countries where there are rivers and dams. These people are migrating to Bamako in significant numbers.

What Are Their Lives Like?

As the original inhabitants of the flood plains of the Niger and Bani Rivers, they allowed Djene, a trading town, to be built in their territory about 900 years ago. Although the Bozo control the waterways in much of their region, the land is dominated by other tribes who have migrated into the town. They are a peaceful people who have long maintained friendly relations with the nearby Dogon and Nono tribes.

The Bozo are known as fishermen and boatmen; their annual catch constitutes one of Mali's principal exports. They also engage in some agriculture, with rice and millet as the staple crops. They also grow corn, peanuts, onions, okra, and peppers. Market gardens produce a variety of fruits and vegetables for sale.

Fishing is the responsibility of Bozo men and boys. The women raise vegetables and tobacco, which they sell in the markets. Men also do other agricultural work. Each Bozo village also has at least one professional hunter, who hunts hippopotamus, crocodile and manatee.

Bozo society is patriarchal (male dominated). Unmarried men live in special bachelor huts in the villages, and married couples live with the husband's family. Extended family arranges bozo marriages heads through male intermediaries. The prospective groom gives gifts to the bride's parents and performs a bride-service. He must also pay a bride-price, but sometimes, instead of a bride-price, the two families exchange women. Some families practice polygyny (having over one wife), but as Muslims, a man has a limit of four wives.

The Bozo live in small, compact villages on the banks of streams. They have several types of dwellings. Straw huts make up their temporary fishing camps. In the floodplains, they live in dwellings built on artificial mounds. The most common type of village, however, are rectangular houses with sun-dried brick walls. The roofs of these houses are flat and made of beaten dirt that is supported on logs. Bozo land is owned by the community and is administered by the community's headman, who lives in an interior court in the center of the village. The headman handles the affairs of the village community. He is the clan chief.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Bozo are virtually all Muslim, and their identity is in the Islamic religion. Beneath the Muslim surface there is a strong animistic undercurrent. They already have their own distinctive religious systems and worldviews. It will be important to enter Bozo society and win acceptance. This people group will not likely respond to direct evangelism.

What Are Their Needs?

The Bozo appear to be a neglected people, isolated from most forms of the gospel. Extreme heat and dry temperatures may discourage some missionaries, but there is a need for a strong, committed mission team to reach the hearts of these Muslims.

Prayer Points

Ask the Lord of the harvest to call full-time missionaries who will be willing to invest their lives in the Jenaama Bozo of Mali.
Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to any mission agencies focusing on the Bozo.
Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Jenaama Bozo who will boldly declare the gospel.
Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
Ask the Lord to bring forth a holy and growing Jenaama Bozo church for the glory of his name!
Scripture Prayers for the Jenaama Bozo in Mali.

Text Source:   Joshua Project