The Jaan of Burkina Faso
The 18,000 Jaan, also known as the Yana, live in eastern Burkina Faso. They are located primarily in the Gourma province, which is situated along the border of Togo. The Jaan are part of the Gur cluster of peoples, and their language, Yana, belongs to the Niger-Congo language family.
Burkina Faso consists of an extensive plateau, which is slightly inclined towards the south. The climate of the country is generally dry, and the soil, infertile. Three principal rivers can be found in Burkina Faso: the Black Volta, the Red Volta, and the White Volta. Converging to the south in Ghana, these three rivers form the Volta River. In the southwestern part of the country are sandstone plateaus bordered by the 500 foot Banfora Escarpment.
In Burkina Faso, about 90% of the population is rural and lives in some 7,700 villages. Very little is known about the Jaan in particular; thus, some assumptions have been made about their lifestyle, based on groups living in close proximity to them.
What are their lives like?
Burkina Faso is home to approximately 80 distinct ethnic groups, with the Jaan representing less than 1% of the population. Most of the Jaan are farmers who grow crops such as millet, guinea corn, beans, and rice. During the rainy season, both men and women supplement the crops by fishing in the streams and rivers. Younger women gather shea nuts for the oil and collect other items from the forest. The older women cut elephant grass and use it to make mats and baskets. Other crafts include making rope, crafting bows and arrows, working with leather, and producing pottery.
Nearly every village has a small market in which items such as matches, soap, salt, livestock, fish, fruit, and bows and arrows are available. In the larger markets, merchants come from outside the area, bringing bread, sugar, medicines, and second-hand clothing.
Jaan marriages today are seldom arranged. A man may choose his own wife, and the girl has the right to refuse. The man must pay the girl's family four cows, two goats, a red rooster, and a guinea fowl as a bride-price. Most men have more than one wife and usually marry their second wife by the age of 35.
Jaan huts are usually circular with mud walls. Sometimes they are waterproofed with locust-bean pods and cow manure. Walls may be decorated with geometric designs, and the dirt floors are beaten smooth and hard. A number of huts together form a compound in which an extended family lives. The huts are built in a circle surrounded by a wall. In the center of the huts is a yard where the family's cattle are kept.
In the past, the Jaan decorated themselves with tattoos, tribal markings, and jewelry. Today, some still continue to do so. Women may pierce their upper and lower lips and insert a bone. Ears may also be pierced and ear-straws inserted. Sometimes brass anklets are worn.
What are their beliefs?
Most of the Jaan still follow their traditional ethnic religion. They believe in a number of gods, as well as one "chief god" who reigns above the others. Shrines are located throughout the villages and in houses. There, sacrifices and prayers are made to ensure good harvests, health, and other such needs. After the millet and guinea corn harvests, special religious ceremonies are held in the shrines.
People who are perceived as witches are feared by the Jaan, and protective remedies are sought to keep them away. Soothsayers also exist among the Jaan. They make sacrifices, see visions, and are associated with chiefs.
Ancestor worship (praying to deceased relatives for help and guidance) also plays a large role in Jaan traditional religion. When an adult dies, it is believed that he will join his ancestors. Their spirits are believed to guard the living, and they are worshipped and called upon in times of crisis.
What are their needs?
The Jaan lack any Christian resources in their own language. In addition, no missions agencies are currently working among them. Evangelistic work and sustained prayer are especially needed to soften the hearts of the Jaan to the Gospel message.
- Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to work among the Jaan of Burkina Faso.
- Pray that Christian radio broadcasts, evangelical literature, and the Jesus film will be made available to the Jaan.
- Ask the Lord to raise up qualified linguists to translate the Word of God into the Yana language.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Jaan through dreams and visions.
- Pray that God will use the Jaan believers to share Christ with their own people.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that have kept the Jaan bound for many generations.
- Ask God to raise up a mighty army of intercessors who will faithfully stand in the gap for the Jaan.
- Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Jaan church for the glory of His name!
See also the following Gur groups:
The Puguli of Burkina Faso.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Jaan
- Country: Burkina Faso
- Their language: Yana
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 2%
- Church members: 360
- Scriptures in their own language: None
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: 0
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 3,600 (20%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 14,400 (80%)
- Country: Burkina Faso
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 17
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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