Va-Ma'a in Tanzania

The Va-Ma'a have only been reported in Tanzania
Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

The Ma 'a (Va-ma 'a), or Mbugu as they are called by others, is an ethnic group believed to have a Cushitic origin. As nomad pastoralists, they are believed to be originally from Ethiopia and to have moved southwards to Kenya, where they interacted with other nomads. They share a lot of traditions with the Rendile, Samburu, Aariel, Maasai, Dahalo and Oromo tribes of Kenya.

The Ma 'a/Mbugu entered Tanzania in the late 17th century through Arusha before they found their first settlement in the Kilimanjaro region--particularly the Pare area. The Ma 'a/Mbugu continued to move eastwards to the Tanga region. These people lived in forests while grazing their cattle. Their major foods were meat, milk, honey, blood and wild fruits. To date, many houses of the Ma 'a/Mbugu people are surrounded by a small grazing yard and traditional oxotic trees. They in fact have a very strong affinity to their forest life.

The Ma 'a are easily distinguished from other Tanzanians by their hair, their native language and their lifestyle.

Where Are they Located?

The majority of the Va-ma 'a/Mbugu are located in the Lushoto district in the Tanga region. Other districts with small numbers of these people include Korogwe and Handeni--also in Tanga region. Some are in the Kilimanjaro region and some areas of the Morogoro region. The Ma 'a, as other tribes in Tanzania, are scattered in many regions of Tanzania.

Some towns where they can be found are Iren 'te, Milemeleni, Magamba, Kibumbe Mategho, Mshangai, Rangwi Mnguza, Fwizai, Bumbuli, Kin 'ko, Mp 'anda, etc.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Ma 'a/ Mbugu are originally pastoralists. However, in the early 1900s, these people (who were grazing their cattle in the forests ) were disturbed by the German as they were forced to move away from the forest so that the Germans could make these areas into forest reserves. To respond to that, the Ma 'a/Mbugu started clearing the land with hope that this would prevent their being removed from their land. This idea did not work within the area that was set for a reserve, however, as they moved to the periphery of the forests. The Ma 'a/Mbugu started growing crops like other tribes around them. To date, a normal mbugu family must possess at least a few cows, goats, sheep and/ or other domestic animals which are now somehow not grazed because of the shortage of grazing land.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Ma 'a/Peole originally believed in a god of the fathers. This God is believed to be the creator (who they call 'Kiumbi ') and in some daily discussions, the Ma 'a/Mbugu say' 'Yakha 'lo' to wish a person well. It is equivalent to 'God be with you.' The majority do not use this greeting. It is only used by those who can speak Ma 'a and not Mbugu. The majority of the Ma 'a/Mbugu are Muslim or traditionalists. A good number of Mbugu are now Christians and are Lutherans, Catholics, Pentecostals, Baptists and Seventh Day Adventists.

What Are Their Needs?

The greatest need now is clean drinking water and good roads. The Ma 'a/Mbugu are now involved in vegetable production besides their livestock style. The areas where these people live such as Malibwi, Matego, Ngoka, Mshangai, Mziragembei, Magamba, Mazumbai, Mgwashi, Kinko, Mpanda, Kwemakame, Bumbuli, Rangwi, etc. have no access to clean drinking water and are also faced with poor road networks. In addition, the Ma 'a/Mbugu language has been suppressed by the colonial and local rulers because it comprised the minority. These people were forced to speak languages of their neighbours like Sambaa and Pare. That restricted Ma 'a/Mbugu to be used in public. However, the Ma 'a/Mbugu continued to speak their language at home. With the passing of this suppression, the Ma 'a/Mbugu have rejuvinated and have seriously started speaking their language--particularly Ma 'a which was in danger of losing speakers. There is a growing need of documenting the Mbugu vocabularies.

Prayer Points

Pray for the translation of the Maa/Mbugu Bible as this will assist in keeping the vocabularies as in the case of neighbouring tribes of Sambaa and Pare. The Mbugu themselves have started translating the Gospel of John.
Pray that their culture will be conserved and not disappear.

Scripture Prayers for the Va-Ma'a in Tanzania.

Profile Source:   Ernest R.Mbega  

People Name General Va-Ma'a
People Name in Country Va-Ma'a
Alternate Names Maa; Mbugu; VaMaa
Population this Country 73,000
Population all Countries 73,000
Total Countries 1
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 4
Unreached No
Frontier People Group No
GSEC 1  (per
Pioneer Workers Needed
People ID 15768
ROP3 Code 110501
ROP25 Code 305338
ROP25 Name Mbugu / Va-Ma'a
Country Tanzania
Region Africa, East and Southern
Continent Africa
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Tanga region: Lushoto district, Usambara mountains.   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Country Tanzania
Region Africa, East and Southern
Continent Africa
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Tanga region: Lushoto district, Usambara mountains..   Source:  Ethnologue 2016

No people group map currently available. Use the above button to submit a map.

Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 3.50 %)
10.00 %
Ethnic Religions
20.00 %
0.00 %
70.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Mbugu (73,000 speakers)
Language Code mhd   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Unknown
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Mbugu (73,000 speakers)
Language Code mhd   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Mbugu

Primary Language:  Mbugu

Bible Translation Status:  Translation Started

Resource Type Resource Name Source
None reported  
Photo Source Anonymous 
Profile Source Ernest R.Mbega 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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