Population: 28,000 – 60,000 (estimated)

Religion: Christian, traditional religion

Alternate names: Kivwanji, Kiwanji, Wanji

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The Vwanji: The Vwanji language is still very alive. They have tried to start a Bible translation project several times, but failed due to lack of knowledge and funds. Now that they are properly equipped the people are excited and highly motivated to see the Scriptures translated into their language. 

The Vwanji live in the high mountain ranges in the southwest of Tanzania. They can only be reached by a very steep dirt road with about 50 hairpin turns.

Location within country: Iringa Region, Makete District, in the Kipengere Mountain Range. West of the Bena, south of the Sangu, north of the Kinga.

Geography and Climate: Savannah, gallery forest 

Cultural Information: The Vwanji are mainly farmers who grow potatoes, wheat, peas, maize, and other crops. The people don’t travel much and are regarded as friendly, unassuming, helpful and hospitable. The Vwanji community is a close-knit and cohesive group.  

Economic Status: A long history of missionary presence there has resulted in a relatively high level of education.  

Language Group Information: A sociolinguistic survey was done by the Language Assessment team in 2003 in the Vwanji area. All church leaders interviewed during the survey indicated a high interest in taking part in a Bible translation project and expressed a willingness to work together. Their language is still alive and actively used. Vwanji is used extensively by Vwanji speakers of all ages and there is no danger of it being lost in favor of Swahili. Vwanji is the language used with friends and at home. The people have a very positive attitude toward their mother tongue. The central speech form seems to be the one spoken in Ikuwo or Magoye. 

There are no other languages apart from Swahili and Vwanji that might be considered to give the Vwanji speaking community adequate access to religious material. However, part of the Vwanji speaking community does not understand Swahili well enough to use Swahili Scriptures. Swahili literacy in the area seems to be good, but not exceptional.

The Vwanji do not have a strong vision for language development and only some interest in mother tongue literacy. However, there is a very strong desire for a Vwanji Bible translation. 

The gospel of Mark in Vwanji was first published in 1985. It was translated in the 1960s using what the Vwanji speakers call “pure” Vwanji using old language, which is difficult for younger people to understand, and old German related spelling system. Very few religious leaders own this book, but it is available. 

The Vwanji Church: The main church in the area is the Lutheran Church. A Pentecostal church has also entered the area recently. Both churches have a strong desire for a Vwanji Bible translation and are willing to cooperate to make this happen. So the Bible translation ministry also is a major key factor in bringing churches together!

History: Lutheran missionaries evangelized the Vwanji about one hundred years ago. Today, most Vwanji are professing Christians although there are still many who follow traditional religion. Traditional sacrifices play quite a significant role in the Vwanji speaking area. The main church in the area is the Lutheran Church. The other denominations present in the area are the Catholic Church and some Pentecostal churches with small congregations.

The Team: The team has members from Lutheran and Catholic churches—who work together to translate the Word of God and train and encourage readers of the Word. The team is made up Nahumu M. and Ezekiel N. as translators and Casto N. as Literacy/SU coordinator.

> Browse our Vwanji project stories