Fouta Djallon

Fouta Djallon

[foo-tuh juh-lohn; Fr. foo-tai dja-lawn]
Fouta Djallon or Futa Jallon, highland region, c.30,000 sq mi (77,700 sq km), central Guinea, W Africa. Largely a rolling grassland (average alt. c.3,000 ft/910 m), the region is grazed by cattle of the Fulani. The Niger, Senegal, and Gambia rivers rise there. Since the 18th cent. it has been a stronghold of Islam.
Fouta Djallon is a highland region in the center of Guinea, West Africa. The indigenous name is Fuuta-Jaloo (sometimes spelled Fuuta Jalon; Fouta Djallon is a French spelling; in English it is sometimes also written Futa Jalon). The origin of the name is from the Fula word for region and the name of the original inhabitants, the Jalonke or Djallonké.


Fouta Djallon consists mainly of rolling grasslands, at an average elevation of about 900m (3,000ft). The highest point, Mount Loura, rises to 1,515m (4,970ft). The plateau consists of thick sandstone formations which overlie granitic basement rock. Erosion by rain and rivers has carved deep jungle canyons and valleys into the sandstone.

It receives a great deal of rainfall, and the headwaters of three major rivers, the Niger River, the Gambia River and the Senegal River, have their sources on it. It is thus sometimes called the watertower (chateau d'eau in French literature) of West Africa. Some authors also refer to Fouta Jallon as the Switzerland of West Africa.


The population consists predominantly of Fula or Fulani people (who call themselves Fulɓe [sing. Pullo] and are known in French as Peul). In Fuuta-Jaloo their language is called Pular, which is a dialect of Fula like Pulaar in Senegambia and Fulfulde further east in West Africa, but with some particular characteristics.


Also see Kingdom of Fouta Djallon

Since the 18th century it has been a stronghold of Islam, when in 1725, the first jihad against the animists was launched. After the battle of Talansan, which was won by the Muslims, the theocratic empire of Futa Jallon was founded under one ruler ("Almamy" from Arabic Al Imami) and eight Almamy ruling over the nine provinces (Diiwe) of Futa Jallon. Several succession crises weakened the central power located in Timbo until 1896, when the last Almamy, Bubakar Biro, was defeated by the French army in the battle of Poredaka.

The Fulɓe of Fouta Djallon spearheaded the expansion of Islam in Guinea. Fulɓe Muslim scholars developed an indigenous literature using the Arabic alphabet. Known as Ajamiyya, this literary achievement is represented by such great poet-theologians as Tierno Muhammadu Samba Mombeya, Tierno Saadu Dalen, Tierno Aliou Boubha Ndyan, Tierno Jaawo Pellel etc. In its heyday, Fuuta-Jaloo was "a magnet of learning, attracting students from Kankan to the Gambia, and featuring Jakhanke clerics at Tuba as well as Fulbhe teachers. It acted as the nerve center for trading caravans heading in every direction. The more enterprising commercial lineages, of whatever ethnic origin, established colonies in the Futanke hills and along the principal routes. It served their interests to send their sons to Futanke schools, to support the graduates who came out to teach, and in general to extend the vast pattern of influence that radiated from Futa Jalon" Amadou Hampâté Bâ has called Fuuta-Jaloo "the Tibet of West Africa" in homage to the spiritual and mystic (Sufi) tradition of its clerics.



The Fulɓe in Fouta Djallon are sedentary. Animal husbandry is important, and cattle, sheep and goats graze in open areas.

The main field crop is fonio, although rice is grown in richer soils. Most soils degrade quickly and are highly acidic with aluminum toxicity, which limits the kind of crops that can be grown without significant soil management. A traditional system of gardening, notably women's or kitchen gardens called cuntuuje (sing. suntuure) in Pular or tapades in French, involves addition of various organic inputs (kitchen scraps, harvest residues, mulching, manure). These produce a significant quantity and variety of agricultural products. The gardens are always fenced-in to protect against free-grazing animals.

The region's main cash crops are bananas and other fruits.


The largest town in the region is Labé.


Fouta Djallon has historically had a high degree of emigration, usually short-term, and mainly to Senegal and Sierra Leone.

See also

External links



  • David Robinson (1985) The Holy War of Umar Tal: the Western Sudan in the mid-nineteenth century Clarendon Press, Oxford, ISBN 0-19-822720-5
  • Hanson, John H. (1996) Migration, Jihad and Muslim Authority in West Africa: the Futanke colonies in Karta Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, ISBN 0-253-33088-2


  • Dölter, Ueber die Capverden nach dem Rio Grande und Futa Dschallon (Leipzig, 1884)
  • Noirot, A travers le Fouta-Djallon et le Bamboue (Paris, 1885)
  • De Sanderval, La conquête du Fouta-Djallon (Paris, 1899)
  • Marchat, Les rivières du sud et le Fouta-Djallon (Paris, 1906)

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