The Buduma are an ethnic group of Chad, Cameroon, and Nigeria who inhabit many of the islands of Lake Chad. They are predominantly fishers and cattle-herders. In the past, the Buduma carried out violent raids on the cattle herds of their neighbors. They were feared villains with aggressive reputations; thus, they were respected and left alone for many years, protected by their own habitat of water and reeds.
Today, they are a peaceful and friendly people willing to adopt some modern changes. Although their neighbors call them Buduma, meaning "people of the grass (or reeds)," they prefer to be called Yedina. Their language is known as Yedina.
90.000 Buduma live on scores of islands located within Lake Chad.
The Lake Chad region was integrated into the political realm of the Kanem-Bornu Empire. During this time (specifically around the 9th to 16th centuries), many ethnic groups in the area assimilated or merged in consequence of the new political power in the region. However, some communities stayed distinct and detached from the central government. This included the Buduma who established themselves in the remote islands and northern shores of Lake Chad.
The Buduma are largely fishermen and livestock herders. Some Buduma are engaged in commercial fishing but many fish for personal or familial subsistence. The cattle the Buduma raise are bred to have large and hollow horns. This allows the cattle to float easier when they're transported across the lake or other bodies of water. The Buduma extensively make use of papyrus reeds. The reeds are used for constructing fishing boats, lightweight huts (that can be moved to higher ground if the lake rises), and more. Staples foods of the Buduma include fish, cow milk, water lilly roots (that they grind to flour), and other foods native to the region. Even though they use or consume many products derived from their cattle, the Buduma don't commonly kill and eat them.
Most Buduma are cattle herders or fishermen. They live on the more stable islands of Lake Chad in permanent villages. These scattered villages are enclosed by reed fences. Buduma weave their huts from papyrus reeds, so that the huts can be easily lifted and moved to higher ground when the lake rises. The village life and economy of the Buduma center on their cattle and, to a much lesser extent, on their crops of wheat and millet. Buduma cattle have distinct horns which are especially long. The horns help the cattle to swim when they lean their heads back in the water. Buduma do not use their cattle for meat, but for milk and sacrifices only.
During the dry season, all able-bodied Buduma move to the floating islands to establish temporary camps. These islands are really floating rafts of matted vegetation, sometimes drifting and sometimes anchored by roots.
Throughout the dry season, Buduma depend on fishing for their livelihood. They are well-known for their distinctive papyrus reed boats. Buduma use the smaller of these crafts for fishing and the larger ones for transporting cattle or for prolonged family accommodation. Although the Buduma formerly fished only for their own consumption, they now also fish commercially, transporting dried fish to Nigerian markets for trade. This new pattern of commerce has enabled the Buduma to purchase material goods they have been unable to produce themselves.
Unlike the diet of any other people in Africa, the Buduma diet is based on cow's milk and fish, with only a few cereal products. The people also collect water lily roots and grind them into flour, providing a supplement to their diet. The Buduma have remarkable physiques due to the high amounts of protein they eat daily. Consequently, Buduma are powerful swimmers, able to stay under water for long periods of time.
Buduma teach their children from an early age to swim, manage boats, to help with the nets and to fish. By age 15, boys are circumcised, marking their maturity into manhood. Men do not marry until their late twenties, usually marrying women substantially younger than they.
Buduma are fiercely ethnocentric, placing a high value on preserving their distinct culture. Thus, they believe strongly in marrying within their own people group. Some Buduma men may intermarry with neighboring Kanembu women, but the men never take their wives back to their island homes. A Buduma woman will never marry a "mainland" man.
This historically large, shallow lake is located where Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger meet. Although the shores of Lake Chad have long been inhabited by populations of mixed origin, the Buduma have managed to preserve their identity and homeland. They have resisted outside influences throughout history, remaining a fiercely independent people who, even today, are ruled by their own chiefs.
In the past, the Buduma carried out violent raids on the cattle herds of their neighbours. They were feared villains with aggressive reputations; thus, they were respected and left alone for many years, protected by their own habitat of water and reeds. Today, they are a peaceful and friendly people willing to adopt some modern changes. Although their neighbours call them Buduma, meaning "people of the grass (or reeds)", they prefer to be called Yedina.
Buduma have adopted most of the aesthetics of the dominant Kanuri culture near Lake Chad. Facial scarification, consisting on two or three vertical lines of both cheecks, nose piercing, and hairdo based in small fine braids are Buduma female traits. Men wear either Western clothes or traditional.
The Buduma are largely Muslim. They also believe in the God Kumani, founder of the world, and put faith in priests who they believe will appease the spirits.