Population: 200,000 (estimated)

Location: Mbeya Region (Mbeya, Chunya, Mbozi Districts)

Religion: Traditional religion, about 50% Christians

Alternate names: Kisafwa, Ishisafwa, Cisafwa

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The Safwa: Many Safwa live in fear of the many occult groups and do not know what it means to be protected by Jesus Christ. Because of this, there is much enthusiasm among the Safwa about the translation work that is happening in their language. Pastors are especially excited about the hope of transformed lives that a Bible translation in their heart language will bring. The community is vastly supportive of the project; they value their language highly and are anticipating having the Word of God, which is the power of God giving freedom for those living in fear.

Geography and Climate: They live in and around the Mbeya and Poroto mountain ranges, which reach to over 2,700 m with Safwa villages found from the plains up to the highest elevations. At 2,100 m there are frosts in June and July. The rainy season, November-April, receives 90% of the year’s rainfall and during this time many of the roads are impassable to vehicles. 

Cultural Information: Farmers of maize, rice, sunflowers, cassava, wheat, peas. Cash crops include cotton, potatoes, and coffee. Livestock is raised for subsistence and bride wealth and consists mostly of cows, goats, and sheep. The young men often go to find jobs in Mbeya town to supplement their income. The money they earn from farming would not be enough to live on. Most houses are of mud brick with either grass or corrugated iron roofing. 

Language Group Information: A sociolinguistic survey was done in 1998 in the Safwa area. The language vitality of the Safwa language is strong and there does not seem to be any indication of a shift into sole use of Swahili in the near future. The bilingualism testing showed that more than 80% of the population fell below the minimum level needed to understand more complex matters in Swahili.  In town, the level of bilingualism is likely to be higher. No previous language development has been attempted. The Safwa indicated during the initial survey that they would like to see Safwa literature developed and used. There is a strong desire for a Safwa Bible in the community as well as among the church leaders. 

The Safwa Church: Non-Christians are very open to the Gospel but also to joining occult groups. There is a strong desire for a Safwa Bible in both the community and among church leaders. Pastors are very enthusiastic about the project and they hope it will bring a major change to the way people live in the region. The manner in which they support their language team and the project shows their vision for God’s Word in their mother tongue.

Safwa Team: The team has people from MEC and EAGT. The team is made up of Amon M., Jamila W. and Lawi M. as translators, with John N. and Amani M. as Literacy/SU coordinators.

> Browse our Safwa project stories