Introduction / History
Name: From the Bambara term 'Boso' (meaning 'straw-house,' a reference to dwellings located in temporary fishing camps); used for an entire ethnic group. "The Bozo" is really three distinct people groups speaking four varieties of the so called Bozo language. (These varieties are not too close, so spontaneous comprehension is difficult.) Within this assignment all three groups will be discussed and described.
Climate: Hot, dry; temperatures generally range from 22-40 degrees C.
Religion: Muslim. Considered an unreached/least reached people group. Both national and expatriate missionaries are doing evangelism.
Livelihood: Fishing/boating, farming (principally rice and millet) and commerce.
Housing: Commonly sun-dried, mud brick houses in small, compact villages or straw huts in camps along the riverside (hence the name Bozo).
Languages: Jenaama, Tigemaxo, Tiemacewe and Kelinga or Hainyaxo.
The Bozo are a tribe of fishermen located in the town of Djene in the middle Niger River area. 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.
The climate in the Bozo area is hot and dry. Temperatures range from 73 to 97 degrees, and there is only eight to twenty inches of annual rainfall. Animal life is varied in the Bozo region. Giraffes, elephants, lions, and panthers inhabit the land, while crocodiles and hippopotamuses live in the rivers. Many birds, monkeys, and snakes also occupy the area.
The Bozo are a peaceful people who have long maintained friendly relations with the Dogon and Nono, nearby tribes. They speak Bozo Corogama, which belongs to the Niger-Congo language family.
What are their lives like?
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. Corn, peanuts, onions, okra, and peppers are also grown. Market gardens produce a variety of fruits and vegetables for sale.
Fishing is the responsibility of the Bozo men and boys. The women raise vegetables and tobacco, which they sell in the markets. Other agricultural work, however, is done by the men. 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. Bozo marriages are arranged by extended family 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. Polygyny (having more than one wife) is generally practiced, but only to the Muslim limit of four.
The Bozo live in small, compact villages on the banks of streams. Several different types of dwellings may be found among them. Temporary fishing camps are composed of straw huts. In the flood plains, dwellings built on artificial mounds are used. The most common type of village, however, is composed of 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 as a whole 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 and is also considered the "clan chief."
What are their beliefs?
The Bozo are virtually all Muslim. As such, they adhere to the five "pillars," or duties, of Islam. These include affirming that "there is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet." Muslims must also give alms generously and are expected to pray five times daily, facing the holy city of Mecca. In addition, devout Muslims fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Finally, they are expected to a make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during their lifetime, if at all possible.
What are their needs?
The Bozo appear to be a neglected people, isolated from most forms of the Gospel. Pioneer missions works are necessary to evangelize these people. Extreme heat and dry temperatures may discourage some missionaries, but a strong, committed group is needed to reach the hearts of these devoted Muslims. Intercession is the key to seeing this become a reality.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to call full-time missionaries who will be willing to invest their lives in the Bozo of Mali.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to any missions agencies focusing on the Bozo.
* Pray that Jesus will reveal Himself to the Bozo through dreams and visions.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the 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 triumphant Bozo church for the glory of His name!