Who are the Tanala people?
The Tanala people, also called Antanala, live in the inland forests of southeastern Madagascar. Their name actually means ‘people of the forest’. With a population of 1,200,000 the Tanala represent 6% of the population of Madagascar. They are skilled woodsmen, food gatherers, and hunters. They trade beeswax, honey, and other forest products and grow rice as a staple food. Their traditional ‘slash-and-burn’ agricultural methods are being discouraged by the central Madagascan government, instead they’re being encouraged to use more modern methods to grow corn, yams and coffee. Living conditions in the smaller villages can be very difficult. Many of these small villages are hard to reach and often people are suspicious and afraid of foreigners, as well as of Malagasy from other people groups.
What do they believe?
The Tanala hold deeply to their traditional religious practices, which are based on animism and ancestor worship. They believe that there are spirits all around us in nature and that people must try to please the spirits. Like most Animists they live with a certain amount of fear that a spirit will be unhappy with them.
What is being done to reach them?
The Tanala are considered to be one of the least reached people groups in Madagascar. However, recently three Malagasy missionaries have begun sharing the gospel in Ikongo (a Tanala settlement) and have already had the joy of baptising new believers. The Hofmann family from the Netherlands have also recently moved to Sandrohy to live among the Tanala with the hope of planting a church among them.