Lobi in Côte d'Ivoire

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

In the 1600s, the Wala lived in Mamprusi and established control over the Dagari and Lobi peoples. They settled in Wa, northwestern Ghana. In the late 1700s, the Lobi migrated from Ghana to their present location due to pressure from larger groups in the area. The Lobi-Wala continue to migrate today, but to a lesser extent, either for better land or to find jobs in the cities. Because of continued invasions and raids from other groups, the Lobi-Wala developed their characteristic fortress-type houses and poison arrow weapons. They remain an aggressive people. In fact, their poison arrows prevented the French colonialists from conquering them for six years. The Lobi-Wala occupy the Black Volta region where the countries of Ghana, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso meet. They actually form two separate groups: the Lobi (named for their language), and the Wala (named for the area, Wa, in which most of them live). Because the Lobi and Wala share many similarities in language, location, history, and culture, researchers often group them as one people: the Lobi-Wala. Both groups speak their own dialect of the Gur language, which belongs to the Niger-Congo language family.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Lobi-Wala are primarily farmers who migrate continually in search of adequate farmland. They are one of the least developed peoples in West Africa. They raise cereals such as sorghum, millet, and maize, as well as yams, squash, beans, peppers, and a little rice. They sell some of their crops in local markets, especially sorghum beer. Most families also raise cattle, sheep, goats, and chickens. They use their rooftops to dry millet and maize. Wage-paying jobs have attracted some of them to parts of southern Ghana or Ivory Coast. On the farms, men do most of the work in the fields, but women help with the planting and harvesting. Women cultivate their own vegetable gardens, collect forest products, gather firewood, and haul water. They also prepare the meals and make the beer. Both men and women build their houses. The Lobi-Wala live in village settlements that consist of several compounds. The settlements are widely scattered in order to leave room for farming and for each family's herds. Larger bush farms are located farther away from the settlements. Their homes are made of adobe, and they are much sturdier than they look. They use strong wooden pillars and have flat roofs. Their homes can be different sizes depending on the number of members of the family. Three generations live under one roof. Children are cared for by their mothers and are breastfed until they can walk. At that time, children are considered to have become human and are entitled to a proper burial. Toddlers are cared for by their older sisters. Young girls play house around the compounds and sometimes help their mothers carry water or grind cereals. The boys help their fathers herd the cattle. Lobi girls, unlike girls from other tribes in the region, may also help their fathers and brothers with the herding. During the course of a given year they hold various ceremonies at household shrines. For instance, at the end of the farming season, they celebrate the abundance of grain with dancing. Ceremonies also accompany events such as births, marriages and deaths. The most important ceremonies, however, center on initiations into secret societies. The Wala are noted for their expert xylophone players who perform at funerals and dances, while the Lobi are noted for their mask-making abilities. Both groups carve ancestor shrines, animals, gods and stools.

They are known as warriors and have been victims of slave raids and clan warfare. They are traditionally farmers and hunters.
What Are Their Beliefs?

A majority of the Lobi follow their traditional animistic beliefs (belief that non-human objects have spirits), while most of the Wala have partially adopted the dominant religion of the area: Islam. Their "conversion" process began in the 14th century, but it was extended in the eighteenth century when Dyula Muslim traders were absorbed into the Wala state and began to speak Wali instead of their Mande language. The Muslim Dyula subsequently became part of the Wala group and brought Islam with them. The non-Muslim Wala have beliefs and practices that are very similar to those of the Lobi. The animistic religion of these groups is centered around deceased ancestors and objects of nature, both of which they worship. They believe the earth watches over the community and bring fertility to the soil. They also believe the spirits of their ancestors watch over their lineage and are involved with household matters. These ancestral spirits need to be fed and cared for; they become hungry and dissatisfied when they are not properly appeased, turning into evil spirits. These animists also believe that spirits in animals and objects can be "caught," after which time they build a shrine in their honor. Each house has a small room for fetishes which they believe contain spirits.

What Are Their Needs?

Most of the Lobi people have never yet heard a clear presentation of the gospel message. There is a need for increased mission efforts, additional laborers, Christian broadcasts, and evangelistic literature to effectively reach the Lobi-Wala with the gospel. However, prayer is the first step toward seeing them reached.

Prayer Points

Pray for the Lord to give the Lobi people an abundant harvest this year as a testimony of his power and goodness. Pray for a spiritual awakening among Lobi leaders that will open the door to a movement to Christ among the Lobi and Wala peoples. Pray for the Lord to thrust out workers to go to the Lobi people with gospel materials. Pray for the Lord to anoint African believers to write music about Christ that will be appealing to the Lobi people.

Scripture Prayers for the Lobi in Côte d'Ivoire.

Profile Source:   Joshua Project  

People Name General Lobi
People Name in Country Lobi
Pronunciation LOH-bee
Alternate Names Lobiri; Lobi-Wala
Population this Country 378,000
Population all Countries 741,000
Total Countries 3
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group No
GSEC 4  (per PeopleGroups.org)
Pioneer Workers Needed 8
People ID 13082
ROP3 Code 105811
ROP25 Code 304757
ROP25 Name Lobi
Country Côte d'Ivoire
Region Africa, West and Central
Continent Africa
10/40 Window No
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Zanzan District, north strip.   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Country Côte d'Ivoire
Region Africa, West and Central
Continent Africa
10/40 Window No
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Zanzan District, north strip..   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 1.40 %)
1.60 %
Ethnic Religions
73.40 %
0.00 %
25.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Lobi (378,000 speakers)
Language Code lob   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Lobi (378,000 speakers)
Language Code lob   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Lobi
Photo Source Alfonso Castellanos - Wikimedia  Creative Commons 
Map Source Anonymous  
Profile Source Joshua Project 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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