The Mafa also called Mafahay, is an ethnic group localized in northern Cameroon, Northern Nigeria and also scattered in other countries like Mali, Chad, Sudan, Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone.
Their primary language is Mafa. The primary religion practiced by the Mafa is Islam, a monotheistic religion built around the teachings of the Qur'an and of the prophet Muhammad.
It is understood that the Mafahay, a Mafa tribe, migrated from Roua and Sulede (which is west of Durum (Mofu proper)), towards the northwest. The Bulahay tribe, meanwhile, migrated to the west, alongside the southern borders of the present Mafa territory. Eventually they also migrated northwards where they mixed with the Mafahay, becoming the present Mafa.
The Mafa of Cameroon are numbering 355,000. They are part of the Chadic people cluster within the Sub-Saharan African affinity bloc. Globally, this group totals 363,300 in 2 countries.
According to Lavergne, the Mafa are split into two tribal sections, being the ‘Mafa proper’ (referred to as Maf-Mafa or ‘Mafahay), and the ‘Bulahai’. The Mafas live in the central part of the Northern Mandaras, which is a region formed by the North area of the Mokolo Plateau and the mountains of northern Mokolo. The Mafa society is divided into several cantons: Moskota; Koza; Gaboua (Koza district); (Mokolo arrondissement). There are also about 1m Mafa in Kughum (North, Nigeria).
The Mafa belong to the Chadic language grouping. They speak the Mafa language, with three different dialects: Mafa-west, Mafa-centre and Mafa-east. Together with many other languages of other African peoples (such as Wuzlam (Uldeme), Muyang and Ɗugwor (Dugur)), they form part of the Mafa-south sub-group.
The population is 15.00% Muslim, 50% Christian and 35% tradition followers. The Christian population is composed of Catholics (60%) and Protestants (40%).
Traditional Mafa agriculture depends on a wide assortment of soil management techniques. The hillsides are secured with constructed terraces, that according to an author, "have reached a state of exceptional perfection". Other ethno-engineering procedures include :
Likewise, agriculturists in the mountains practice an extensive variety of soil fertility management procedures, including :
They also use an intensive livestock-raising system in the management of the fertility of their soil. Livestock includes smallstock and a limited amount of cattle. In the dry season between December and May, livestock is allowed to roam free, so he can consume crop residues and leaves of wild bushes.
During the farming season, livestock is put in a pen and fed. The manure that accumulates in the stables is collected, preserved and finally spread out in the fields at the end of the dry season. The intensity and ingenuity of Mafa nutrient management is illustrated by the fact that termites are used to digest harvest residues and then fed to the Chickens.