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The Cast System

Yaya Wane in his study Les Toucouleurs du Futa Toro (stratification social) has divided the Fulani society in three major Classes: Rimbhe, Neenbhe, Jiyaabhe which can be grouped as follow: The Traditional occupation within the Cast System in Futa Tooro is also provided below.

Social Groups Work Functions Titles

Social Groups Work Functions Titles
Rimbhe-Ardiibhe Can hold leadership in village, serve as Iman, etc. Fulbhe, Toorodbhe
Rimbhe-Huunbhe Free born, noble in class but generally in service to a leader Sebhbhe, Jaawambhe, Subhalbhe
Neenbhe-Fecciram-Golle Artisans, Product Maabubhe-Sanoobhe, Waylubhe, Sakkaebhe, Lawbhe
Neenbhe-Naagotoobhe-Naalankoobhe performers, historians Wammbhaabhe, Maabhubhe Suudu Paate
Jeyaabhe/Jiyaabhe Captives of war laborers Maccubhe



The Traditional occupation within the Cast System in Futa Tooro

Tooroodo (sing), Toorodoe (Pl) leaders, Iman, Farmers

Cuballo (sing), Subalbhe (pl) The Subalbhe. Specialized in fishing and river matters.

Jaawando (sing), Jaawambhe (pl) Courtesans, diplomat intermediaries

Tooroodo (sing), Toorodoe (Pl) leaders, Iman, Farmers
Cuballo (sing), Subalbhe (pl) The Subalbhe. Specialized in fishing and river matters.
Jaawando (sing), Jaawambhe (pl) Courtesans, diplomat intermediaries
Ceddo (sing) leaders, courtesans, support position to leaders
Baylo (sing), Sebhbhe (pl) leaders, courtesans, support position to leaders
Mabe (sing) Maaabubhe (pl) Weavers and Pottery makers
Labbo (sing) Lawbhe (pl) Woodworkers
Sakke (sing) Sakkebhe (pl) Leathers Workers
Gawlo (sing) Awlubhe (pl) Singers, genealogist Griots
Bammbaado (sing) Wammbaabhe (pl) Griots, Guitarists
Maccudo (sing) Maccubhe (pl) Servants, entertainers

Explication of major social groups below


They have four main branches, each descending from a common ancestor, the Wollarbe or Dayebe, the Ouroube, the Yirlabe or Yillaga and the Ferobe. But normally the Fulbe identify themselves by their local territorial lineages. Within these there are the migratory groups they belong to, which are led by an ardo or 'guide'. The Fula or Fulani society also has three castes: The Rimbe consist of the Fulbe proper who raise cattle and who have the political power. Three other main groups are the Neeybe who are craftsmen including the Maabube and the Lawbe, who are also praise singers and genealogists and mentioned below among the non-pastoral nomads. Jeyaabe or Muccube who are the former slaves, some of whom are weavers among the Tukulor, also described below.
Other descriptive terms used of various groups are: Fulbe Mbalu or Sheep Fulani are small groups in various countries herding sheep rather than cattle. Fulbe Ladde or Na'i or Bush or Cattle Fulani are found in different areas. There are a few clans that are completely nomadic, with grass or mat huts. Many migrate between rainy season and dry season villages. Some are semi-sedentary, and rely on the crops of the surrounding farmers. Some are prosperous with small herds; the men migrate with the cattle for part of the year leaving their families at home.
Fulbe Ouro or Settled Fulani, who have settled for various reasons such as farming and education, etc. In Nigeria they are called Joodiibe or Fulbe Gariri. Those that have lost their cattle, are the poorest and despised by other Fulbe.
The influence of the Toroobe paved the way for the pastoral Fulbe to move south into these areas for pasture.

Wodaabe (see below) have their own form of Pulaaku called Mbodangaaku that unites them or 'holds their hands together'. A sense of responsibility to their fellow Wodaabe involving hospitality and generosity binds them together


Divisions of Fulbe

Fulbe Waalo and Fuuta Tooro. The waalo is the floodplain on the south bank of the Senegal River where crops can be grown as the floods recede each year during October - November. This is distinguished from the Jeeri or Ferlo, which is the slightly higher ground south of the Senegal River that stretches south to include the course of the Ferlo river. In its centre is the town of Lingeer (Linguere). On the Jeeri crops can grown only in the rainy season.
The Fulbe of the Futa Tooro live mostly in La Region du Fleuve of the Department of Podor, that is a region 250 km. long, south of the Senegal River between just south-west of Podor and Matam to the east. The Fuuta Tooro group of the Ururbe travel the furthest from near Njum to between Mbede and Haare Law.
The Fulbe have attempted to maintain both their pastoralism and also engage in cultivation, for keeping one's herd is security against poor harvests. They have tended to divide the family with the father cultivating the field and the children looking after the cattle. But neither can be done successfully, and many Fulbe farmers and sedentary herders are being forced to move into the Ferlo, the area of the Fulbe Jeeri, so that there is a degree of conflict between these two groups of Fulbe.

Fulbe Jeeri: in the centre of northern Senegal and a large number of diverse lineages still follow a semi-nomadic life, but this total possibly includes the Fulbe of the Waalo. They are named for the Jeeri or central region of dry higher ground south of the Senegal Valley, where most have lived since the 15th century. The Fulbe Jeeri can be divided between those groups who live in the areas of the old pre-colonial kingdoms nearer the coast, and those on the Jeeri further into the centre of Senegal. There are Fulbe Jeeri in Mali and probably others in the west of Gambia.
The Jeeri is a wind-swept, semi-arid area receiving sparse rainfall, crossed by the Valley of the Ferlo River and numerous dry valleys and river-beds which have pasture only during the rainy season. The town of Lingeer (Linguere) forms the centre around which the various groups of the Fulbe to be found. The Fulbe on the Jeeri are divided into two major groups called Laccenaabe, or Fulbe of the Lacce area and the Jeenglebe or Jengeloobe. The former has twelve clans. Some of these are related to those among the Waalwaalbe and with whom they have contact when they migrate northwards in the dry season. The Jeenglebe consists of three groups located south of the railway between Louga and Lingeer and southwards to the Saalum Valley.
The Fulbe Jeeri living on the Jeeri are family groups linked together by descent, who are still nomadic, or semi-nomadic as cattle raisers and with flocks of sheep and goats. During April the Fulbe Jeeri plant crops of millet, peanuts and beans on the Jeeri. In the following months during the rains they care for their animals and maintain their camps. After the harvest in October, when the rains are over, they move out of the Jeeri because in the dry season the watering holes dry up. They move either to the north towards the Waalo or south to the peanut basin, to return to the Jeeri in the following April.
This movement was modified in the 1950s when artisan wells were drilled at 30 km. intervals on the Jeeri. The constant supply of water is making it possible to cultivate fields where the ground was previously too dry. Sedentary Fulbe and Wolof farmers have been encouraged to settle on the Jeeri and graze their herds close to the wells, so that the wells near the Ferlo valley are becoming surrounded. The pastoralists are finding it increasingly difficult to move their herds close to the water. The water from the wells does not guarantee pasture close to the villages, as the pastoralists once found out to their cost. In the drought of 1972-73 many Jeerinkoobe decided to stay by the wells to have water, however they soon ran out of pasture and lost many animals.
Having learned this hard lesson, the Fulbe Jeeri have continued to be highly mobile, owning large herds of cattle and, more importantly, sheep and goats of which they have flocks of 500 to a 1,000 animals. Since the drought, the rainfall has been better, so that in most years, the majority of the Fulbe Jeeri are able to stay some 15 to 20 km. distant from the wells in the dry season and get better pasture than the farmers close to the wells. This has enabled them to adopt a semi-nomadic life style with semi-permanent camps for the families in reach of the boreholes, while the men travel with the herds looking for pasture. In this way the herds get the best of the pasture before the herds of the sedentary peoples, and they only need to go to the wells every second day. This means they move camp several times in the year to 'rotate' the herds over the pastures. But other Fulbe Jeeri continue to be truly nomadic with the whole families travelling outside the Jeeri in the dry season for pasture using straw huts, which that take apart to carry with them.
In the past the Fulbe Jeeri have found dry season pasture in forest reserves established by the French to the south, where agriculture was banned. There is no pastoral alternative to these reserves because the surrounding country is heavily populated and cultivated by Serer and Wolof peoples

West and south of the Jeeri region there is the area once occupied by the ancient kingdoms of Njambur, Kajoor, Bawol, Siin and Saalum. Here are other groups of Fulbe Jeeri. They are in the region of Njambur, Kajoor, Baol, Siin and Saalum in Senegal. These have had greater contact with the farming communities and so have more incentives to settle.

 The Fulbe in western Mali are located in Nioro and Kayes. Many of these originated from around Podor, in the Fouta Toro area of Senegal, but there are other villages of Fulbe that have a different origin. They spend the rainy season in some thirty villages in a 30 km. radius, mostly south-west of Nioro around Govmanwe. In the dry season they migrate some 200 km. south-westwards to the area north of Bafoulabe. Others are based around Segala and migrate southwards to the Senegal River Valley north-west of Bafoulabe.
Others are found 50 km. north-east of Kayes close to Kontela. They speak Pulaar.
Maasina (Macina) and Nampala Fulbe, Mali: These Fulbe are the central part of a number of interrelated areas of Fulbe, from Dilly and Nara through to northern Burkina Faso. They use, or have used in the past, the flooding of the Niger in its delta in central Mali as part of their migratory pastoralism. of the Fulbe in the Maasina region. The Fulbe live among many other peoples, including thousands of Bella, Moors, Tuareq, Bozo, Songhai and Dogon, and the estimate of their population may be affected by the fact that their social organisation, called the wuro, or a residential community, often includes more than the Fulbe.
Each wuro (Fr. Ouro) is under the leadership of an Ardo, jooro or dioro who negotiates the use of the pastures with his opposite numbers. The wuro may have several thousand heads of cattle, so reciprocal renting of pasture between the wuros is often necessary in the dry season, during May to July. At this time the Fulbe get permission at 'gates' such as near J'Afarabe and Yuwaru to move into the flood plain of the Niger River to use the fresh pasture until July.
 When the river floods in the months from August to December the Fulbe migrate north-westwards into the Sahel, to avoid the mud and flies during August to October, going as far as to the south of ema in Mauritania, a distance of over 300 km. In the 1990s many have turned to the south into farming areas, because of the threat of attack by the Kel Tamasheq. They return to the Niger flood plain in November, and so start the cycle again. Nomadic groups include the Cookinkoobe, Naasaadinkoobe and Sonnaabe migrate from the north. Others have abandoned going into the Delta, pasturing their cattle in localised areas.
The Fulbe live in semi-permanent villages, which also have one or two families of a craftsman caste,
probably Lawbe or Inadan, working in work, leather, and gold and silver and also ex-slaves called maccube, who nowadays have to be paid to do menial work, such as cultivation, sweeping and carrying.
Jallube herders (sing. Jallo) in the Douentza or Hayre region of Mali live in camps a few miles from villages of the Riimayde, the former slaves of the Fulbe, who are sedentary cultivators of millet. The Riimayde were either slaves of individual Jallube or of clans; but these arrangements were abolished in 1945. The Jallube themselves grow millet during the rainy season and trade milk with the Riimayde for millet, spices and other goods. The Jallube also cultivate as the Riimayde do it for them, and also herd the animals of some of the latter.
The Jullube migrate for the dry season, north towards the Delta or southwards. Some move the short distance to the fields of the Riimayde, the rest travel some 30 to 100 km. to the fields of Dogon farmers. They return before the rainy season in July to September to plant again. The men are responsible for both the herding and the cultivation of the millet. The women are responsible for the milking. According to pulaaku Jallube fathers neither eat with, or speak to their sons, even though the sons do all the cultivation and herding for them, Instructions have to be passed by intermediaries.
Burkina Faso has quite a few Fulani in the north-east. Jelgoobe, Djibo, northern Burkina Faso. The Jelgoobe claim to be descended from two chiefdoms who migrated from Haire region of Mali by 1750. According to their oral traditions, they arrived from Maasina in Mali, driving the cattle of the Jullube in the 17th century, because of famine and the political struggles of that region. But they did not escape these entirely, for they became in 1824 the eastern edge of the Islamic Diina kingdom of Aamadu Seeku, based in the Maasina, but rebelled and had their leaders killed. They appealed to the Mossi king of Yatenga, who attempted to impose Mossi rule. The Jelgoobe threw off both until the French arrived in 1864.
They continue a very independent group. Many Fulbe have migrated eastwards to Oudalan, Liptako, Yagha and into Niger who continue to call themselves Jelgoobe. These and other Fulbe of different origins and varied dates of arrival are called Fulbe Jelgooji, like the Fulbe Kelli, who became subject to the Jelgoobe. But some of the Riimaybe, ex-captives, who possibly gaining their freedom in the conflict with the Mossi around 1834, live in the town of Djibo and speak the language of the Mossi. The town is about 25% Mossi, a further 18% are also Riimaybe speaking Fulfulde.
In this region 72% of the population are of Fulfulde speaking and culture, but only 44% are Fulbe, the rest being Riimaybe former slaves, who now have independent farming communities. The Fulbe living in the surrounding hamlets speak Fulfulde and insist on keeping cattle to have status as cattle owners in the Fulbe tradition. Many migrated south during the droughts of the 1980s. But since then those that remained have prospered better than the farming population. This has been helped by new water holes and a cattle market in Djibo. They have a Inadan craft community, maabube - griots, living with them.
Queguedo Fulbe, to the west of Tenkodogo in south-east Burkina Faso, are an example of small groups of Fulani who are settling among other ethnic groups to have a specialised pastoral role. They came from Maasina in Mali and work as herders for the Mossi, as well as having cattle of their own. While both sides profit from the arrangement, they tend to mistrust each other, the Mossi claiming that the Fulani tend to 'lose' only Mossi cattle. The advantages to the Mossi include keeping their cattle separate from their crops. Another reason used to be, keeping the cattle hidden from the tax inspector! But this tax had been abolished. These Fulbe migrate with the cattle herds, going north out of the area during the growing season. The Fulbe also do some cultivation, but have portable houses that can be moved.
Niger has close to a million Fulbe, including the Bororo, right across the southern part of the country and west and north of Agadez. There has been a response of a few dozen.