The Baggara of Sudan
A cluster of 14 Baggara tribes.
These Baggara tribes live in the plains of Sudan's Darfur, North Kordofan, and South Kordofan provinces. The region is well suited for grazing cattle and varies from sparse scrub lands in the northern areas to arid and semi-arid wilderness lands to wooded fields. It only rains during the wet season, primarily from June to September.
The Baggara have traced their origin back several centuries to the days before Mohammed. They claim to be connected to the Juhayna of the Hejaz (region of northwestern Saudi Arabia). Over the centuries, they have become widely scattered across the plains of North Central Africa. Different groups tend to be concentrated in certain regions, but there are no purely Baggara areas.
What are their lives like?
The nomadic Baggara live in camp units called furgan. Members of the furgan generally belong to one or more family line. The Baggara live in simple, dome-shaped tents, which are portable structures that can be easily packed and moved with the herds. The tents are built by placing saplings into holes in the ground, then bending them over and tying them at the top. Smaller branches are tied into the frame, then covered with thatch or canvas mats. The tents are arranged in a circle, into which the cattle are brought for the night.
Although most Baggara tribes are nomadic, there are some that live in farming communities or towns. Their houses are built of mud bricks and have thatched roofs. Corrals for the young animals are built inside the compounds. Grazing land is usually shared, but farm land is owned individually.
The Baggara are somewhat unusual in that the women work to provide the income needed to maintain the households. They earn cash by milking the cows and selling the milk or milk products. Their earnings are either kept or spent on household items. A married woman owns the tent as well as all of its housekeeping contents. The men are primarily involved with caring for the herds. They also plant and harvest the crops.
Baggara marriages are often polygamous. If a man has two wives, one may live in a pastoral camp, while the other lives in a farming village.
Cross cousin marriages are preferred. A "bride price" is provided by the future husband and his near relatives. Part of this money is used to purchase household items, while some of it is used to buy food for the marriage celebration that takes place in the bride's camp. After the wedding, the newlyweds live near the bride's parents. Later, they move to a place chosen by the husband. On this occasion, the groom's family provides another feast.
Baggara society is patrilineal, which means that the line of descent is traced through the males. Traditionally each camp is headed by a male leader called shaykh. Although this position is generally inherited, all of the adult male members of a camp must agree on the man who is to fill the position. The shaykh does not rule the camp, but rather acts as the spokesperson for the decision-making males of the camp. However, he may also have a considerable amount of influence, depending on his wisdom and economic status.
What are their beliefs?
The Baggara hold various religious celebrations and also place importance on many life stage transitions.
What are their needs?
At the present time, there are no missions agencies working among any of the Baggara tribes. There is a great need for qualified laborers to live and work among these Muslims. Concentrated prayer and evangelism efforts are necessary in order to penetrate their hearts with the Gospel.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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