Biali in Togo

Photo Source:  Matt & Sarah Murdock 
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People Name: Biali
Country: Togo
10/40 Window: No
Population: 3,100
World Population: 173,600
Primary Language: Biali
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 5.00 %
Evangelicals: 1.00 %
Scripture: New Testament
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Gur
Affinity Bloc: Sub-Saharan Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

Very little is known about the Biali in particular. Nevertheless, historical accounts claim that they originated in Burkina Faso. The Biali, AKA, Burba, are commonly regarded as a sub-group of the Somba. They are concentrated in the Atakora Mountains in northwestern Benin and across the border in Togo, especially in the Sansanne-Mango region. They also reside in Burkina Faso. The Somba have been described as the "castle people" because of their unique two-storied houses. Although they are a highly individualistic people, they share many features and cultural traits with the Mande who were once predominant in the region. Their name was given to them by the French, but it seems they prefer to be known as the Bialaba. Their language, which they call Berba, is a member of the Niger-Congo family of languages.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Biali are farmers, growing millet, sorghum, and occasionally fonio (a sorghum-like grain) as the staple crops. Depending on the conditions, they might also grow melons, onions, bananas, cucumbers, eggplant, rice, taro, yams, tobacco, and tomatoes. Their farming methods are very basic, with the hoe being the primary tool for cultivation. They rotate their crops and sometimes allow their fields to remain fallow. Hunting, fishing, and gathering (especially of shea nuts) provide only a modest supplement to the diet. Raising livestock is much more important to them. All the local tribes keep at least some cattle, mainly of a hump-less, short-horned variety. Generally, cattle are used for sacrifices, marriage payments, and for hides and manure, but almost never for milk. They also might keep other domestic animals such as sheep, goats, dogs, and chickens. Trade seems to be highly developed and regular markets are widespread among all of the tribes. Women do most of the trading in the markets as well as the gathering. Hunting is done by the men, and fishing, by both sexes. The men also tend to the livestock, clear the land, and perform the bulk of the agricultural work. The women, however, help in the fields as needed. Most of the Biali live in neighborhoods of scattered family homesteads, with a few compact villages in different areas. Most of the tribes of the region live in round or rectangular mud or sun-dried brick huts with thatch roofs. The Biali, however, are unique in that their houses have two stories. It is not known how this particular style originated. Few of the tribes in the region impose restrictions on premarital sex. Marriages are usually arranged by the heads of two extended families, often while the girl is still an infant. While the various Somba sub-groups do not require a bride-price, they do demand premarital bride-service. Polygyny (having more than one wife) is permitted and occurs frequently. Usually the first wife enjoys a superior status, but the other wives have their own separate quarters. The husband divides his time equally among all his wives.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Although some of the Biali are influenced by Islam, most still follow their traditional ethnic religion. They believe that there are many gods and that the stars contain supernatural forces. They have an extensive system of cults in which mystical power is explained and controlled. The Biali also believe that every person has an inner force that determines his own destiny. After death, this "soul" either goes to the sky to join the other mystical powers or is "reincarnated" (reborn in another form). In addition, they believe the dead influence the living; thus, they make sacrifices to gain their favor.

What Are Their Needs?

Although missionaries have made considerable progress among this people group, many of the Biali have yet to hear a clear presentation of the gospel.

Prayer Points

Pray for spiritual openness among the Biali that will lead to a movement to Christ in the 2020s. Pray for the Lord to show Himself to be their provider by providing adequate rain. Pray that African believers will take Christ to the Biali people through skits and songs. Pray for a complete Bible translation that will be used to spread Christ’s fame from village to village.

Text Source:   Joshua Project