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Population: 36,000 (Ikoma, Nata, & Isenye together)

Location: Mara Region, Serengeti District (northwestern TZ)

Altitude: 1525 metres (5000 feet)

Alternate names:  Kiikoma, Egiikoma

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The Ikoma live on the western edge of Serengeti National Park.  It’s not at all uncommon to see a giraffe wandering through the area or to hear of a garden that was destroyed by elephants.  The area is rural and remote. 

Although their exact origins are unknown, the Ikoma have been living in the western region of what is now the Serengeti National Park for several centuries.  The park became a government-protected game reserve in the 1950’s, and the Ikoma were forced to migrate west.  Although attitudes among the Ikoma community toward the park were initially negative, many Ikoma have since realized the economic benefits of the tourist trade which the Serengeti attracts. 

The Ikoma, Nata, and Isenye ethnic groups neighbor each other and have very similar languages.  Thus, it is believed that translation of Scripture into the Ikoma language will meet the needs of all three groups.

Location within Country:  The Ikoma, Nata, and Isenye occupy approximately 1300 square kilometers in the Serengeti District of Mara Region, located in the northwestern corner of Tanzania.  The Ikoma area juts out into the northwestern edge of Serengeti National Park.  

Geography and Climate:  The Ikoma live at a fairly high elevation and tend to have warm, dry weather most of the year.  Temperatures can get quite cool at night, despite being at a location very near to the equator.  Seasonal rains and a few small rivers are essential for maintaining crop production. 

Economic Status:  Many Ikoma are farmers.  Staple crops are corn, cassava, sorghum, millet, and beans.  Cotton is also grown as a cash crop.

Language Group Information:  Ikoma, Nata, and Isenye are three different ethnic groups.  They consider their three speech varieties to be different, but for the purpose of Bible translation they are considered similar enough to use the same written material. 

Religion:  The earliest known Christian evangelical mission activity in the Ikoma area was around 1954 when Mennonite missionaries from the United States launched an evangelism campaign during which several Ikoma individuals converted to Christianity.  Due to a common distrust of Islam and its followers, many of the Ikoma were receptive to the gospel message shared by these missionaries.  Since then, there are quite a few established Christian churches in the Ikoma area, though there is still somewhat of a Muslim presence.  

Traditional religious beliefs still pervade the lives of many Ikoma, whether they claim to be Christian or not.  Traditional healers and gods, such as a popular pair of elephant tusks known as the Ikoma god “Machaba”, are commonly beseeched for protection, healing, or blessing.

Published Scripture:  Luke, Ruth, Jonah

Browse our stories from the Ikoma project