The Nyamwezi of Tanzania

Population: 1.5 million

Location and Background:   The Nyamwezi tribe (“people of the moon”) is the second largest in Tanzania, living principally south of Lake Victoria in west-central Tanzania. About 30% of Nyamwezi live and work outside of their 35,000 miles of land, in Tanzania’s commercial and agricultural centers.

History:   It is believed the Nyamwezi and their related tribe the Sukuma arrived in their present location in the 16th c. Before Europeans arrived, they had an empire consisting of four clans, each  descended from one ancestor. Their ancient king, Mirambo, was known to be a brilliant military leader. They were traders, and by 1800 they were involved in trade of copper, wax, ivory, and slaves with Arabs at the coast. Elephant hunting was a prestigious occupation due to the wealth from ivory trade. They also acquired guns and were often involved in intra-tribal wars, and conflicts with the Arabs.

Culture:   The nuclear family lives together, and villages are not necessarily based on kinship relationships. Ideally every adult should be married. Various rituals are held for marriage and naming babies, and Westernization has had much influence on how the Nyamwezi function. Children go to the government schools. They are agriculturalists and pastoralists. Goats and sheep are used for sacrifices, and for their meat and skins. Their land is dry woodland, with scarce water, so it is not prime agricultural land. Men work the land, women care for the home.

Religion:   The Nyamwezi embrace African Traditional beliefs, Islam and Christianity. They have much respect for their ancestors (the living dead), to whom they offer sacrifices and rely on for their benevolence. Most claim to be Muslims and follow the five pillars of Islam, but in reality they live by their animistic worldview, believing in a creator God, the spirit world, and the importance of using witchdoctors and other diviners to communicate with the spirits. It is reported there are 80,000  Nyamwezi in the Moravian church. The AIC-T has planted a hundred churches in the area but the majority of attenders could be Sukuma, not Nyamwezi. Some say up to 15% of Nyamwezi could be Christian, most of those are Catholic or nominal Christian.

Learn more about the Nyamwezi at Joshua Project or about Tanzania at Operation World.

Latest Prayer Updates:


Praise God for successful drilling of a borehole that has brought forth plentiful water to a village where fresh water was inaccessible. It is wonderful that so many are blessed immediately and may drink from this well! All are amazed and rejoicing to see fresh water come forth from ground that has long been dry. May villagers recognize that this water is from God and desire to know Him. Pray for continued proclamation of the Gospel in the area and receptive hearts to receive living water (John 7:37-39)

Come to the Well

Pray for continued efforts for clean water procurement among the Nyamwezi. A number of wells dry up at this time of year during the six month long dry season, May-October, when rains are nil or scarce. Pray for efforts to restore water availablity to dry or broken wells and in findng locations for new wells. Pray over these locations of water to not only be places for physical refreshment but also for eternal living water to be available at these water sites in the sharing of God’s Word.

Walking in Shadow
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