[jur-muh, jair-]
The Djerma, also spelled Zerma, Zarma, Dyerma, or Zaberma, are a people of westernmost Niger and adjacent areas of Burkina Faso and Nigeria with small pockets living in urban areas of northern Ghana. The Djerma language is one of the Songhai languages, a branch of the Nilo-Saharan language family. The Djerma are considered to be a branch of the Songhai people, and are often referred to as "Zarma Songhay" (also spelled "Djerma-Songhai"). Djerma actually constitute several dozen smaller ethnic groups, who were either indigenous to the era prior to the Songhai Empire and have assimilated into the Djerma-Songhai, or else are people of Djerma-Songhai origins who have differentiated themselves sometime in the precolonial period (through dialect, political structure, or religion). Groups usually referred to as part of the Djerma, but who have tracable historical distinctions include the Gabda, Kado, Tinga, and Sorko peoples.

The Djerma live in the arid lands of the Sahel. Many live in the Niger River valley and exploit the river for irrigation. They grow millet, sorghum, rice.


Early history

The Djerma people are believed to have migrated from what is now the Fula region around Lac Debo, Mali during the Songhai Empire, and settled first in Anzourou and Zarmaganda in the 16th century. In the 18th century, many Djerma resettled south to the Niger River valley, the Fakara plateau and Zigui in what is now Southwest Niger near Niamey. Forming a number of small communities, each led by a Djermakoy, these polities soon found themselves pressured from the north by the Tuareg and the Fula from the southeast, as well as other ethnic groups in the area. While Djermakoy Aboubacar founded the Dosso state from his own Taguru clan around 1750, it remained a small collection of villages in the Dallol Bosso valley until the 1820s, when it led much of the resistance to the Sokoto Caliphate. While Dosso fell under the control of the Amir of Gando (a sub division of Sokoto) between 1849 and 1856, they retained their Djermakoy and the nominal rule of a much larger Djerma territory, and were converted to Islam. Under Djermakoy Kossom (r. 1856-65), Dosso united all of the eastern Djerma, and left a small state stretching from Tibbo and Beri in the north, to Gafiadey in the south, and to Bankadey and Tombokware in the east.


  • James Decalo. Historical Dictionary of Niger. Scarecrow Press/ Metuchen. NJ - London (1979) ISBN 0810812290
  • Finn Fuglestad. A History of Niger: 1850-1960. Cambridge University Press (1983) ISBN 0521252687
  • Encyclopedia Britannica Online

External links

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