Abisi live in an intermediate climatic zone between the drought area of the savanna and the wetland rain-forest.
Jos Plateau is a relatively dry climate but usually receives enough rain for agriculture. In 1972-73, however, rains have been very slow to arrive.
Already, early in the season, we could see the Fulani nomads of the north, driven by drought, arrive near the plateau and crossing Abisi villages.
In early June, the farmers were really worried, the soil remained too hard to work and seed wouldn’t germinate. From the plain of Zaria, it was often possible to see storms burst above the horizon but the rains rarely reached the Abisi territory.
The following events show what the Abisi thought of this disaster.
What could be responsible? What it all the social change and the loss of loyalty to their past that has caused this ecological crisis. Could they restore the order of things? How?
Rain is a question of life and death for all farmers of the world.
The only thing they can do to stabilize the water flows on their land is irrigation but this know-how is costly and of little use to Abisi.
But as they always do when a technological solution to their problems is not feasible, they resort to a social and cultural innovation.
In this case, Abisi’s worldview had a very positive idea of the relationship between humans and their environment; they imagined that they could communicate and deal with the very power who controlled rain.
They call this power /barᴈ/ “father of rain” or “God” in English translations.
To communicate with Barᴈ, Abisi do a /mikosira/or sadaka (in Hausa), a quest or a prayer /urↄ ki barᴈ/.
They can do a small sadaka /usadaka ukekraŋe/ when rain is missing and a big sadaka /usadaka uŋõŋe/ when crops grow well and Abisi want to thank the “father of rain”.
This Sadaka always takes place rain or no rain.
In 1973, Elders quickly reached an agreement to organize a meeting to find the cause of delayed rains.
On June 8 at noon, the first meeting of Elders from each section was held at a special place under a huge kapok tree near the Hill where Igallik meet to discuss together.
The group consisted of sixteen house Elders representing six patrilines of Igallik and Ekantin.
A dozen young men were sitting on the sidelines and did not have the right to intervene in the palaver.
Each man had brought a pitcher /udↄ/ of beer that was pooled and then redistributed into seven pots. Six women brought calabashes of millet porridge /tipara/ and six chicken legs on top. They departed immediately.
The first man to speak was Kwaso from Kut∫ires. He started by saying he was very sorry several of his brothers were absent but that he hoped that /Barɜ/ would nevertheless send rain.
He said that the Mikosira took place near the remotest hamlets of the sacred hill, noting its customary importance. He continued:
We hope that Barᴈ will still send us rain after this Mikosira. We want our crops to grow well and we ask Barᴈ to hear us and help us get rain. We regret that people from Uwara did not come…
The second man, Krami of Etekan∫i said:
“We drink this beer to beg Barᴈ to give us rain now that we are at our grandfather’s place.”
A representative of another patriline repeated the same thing and asked the one of the last section to talk.
He refused, arguing that it was not possible to speak at that Mikosira because he was not at his own section rain ritual site.
The beer and the food were redistributed among the participants who discussed the possible causes of the lack of rain.
Some thought it could be the fault of Rukuba who made ceremonies and possibly manipulated their own “rain stone”.
Others attributed the fault to the San Gari who had settled on his bush fields instead of staying on the Hill as he should have to pay respect to the ancestors.
At three o’clock, the ceremony was over and everyone went back home.
Abisi leaders tried to pray for rain, begging the rain-father to send the much-needed rain but they were not certain if Barɜ had heard them.
But in the passing days, rain still was insufficient and a new Mikosira was planned ten days later.
This new ceremony would take a different attitude toward Barɜ, instead of supplication they would provoke him to act properly. It is called /at∫ikirɜ/ to shout for rain.