Sonjo people

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The Sonjo (native name Batemi) are an ethnic and lingusitic group inhabiting living some 30–40 mi (48–64 km) west of Lake Natron in Arusha Region, Tanzania.


In 2002, the Sonjo population was estimated to number around 30,000 individuals (Ethnologue).

The term Sonjo is the name given to the people by the Maasai. Group members prefer to call themselves the Batemi people.

The Sonjo people speak Sonjo, a Bantu language. They refer to it as Kitemi or Gitemi.

Like the Cushitic-speaking Iraqw, the Sonjo are known for their use of irrigation systems in agriculture. They have consequently been linked by some historians with the Engaruka complex, situated some 60 miles to the southeast. The Sonjo also maintain terraced village sites, albeit of considerably more rudimentary form than what is found at Engaruka.[1]


  1. ^ Matthiessen, Peter (2010). The Tree Where Man Was Born. Penguin Classics. pp. 275–277. ISBN 0143106244.


  • Gray, Robert F. 1963. The Sonjo People of Tanganyika: An Anthropological Study of an Irrigation-based Society. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Nurse, Derek & Franz Rottland 1991. ‘Sonjo: Description, Classification, History’, Sprache und Geschichte in Afrika, 12/13: 171-289.
  • Nurse, Derek & Franz Rottland 1993. ‘A Linguists' View of the History of Sonjo and Engaruka’, Azania, 28: 1-5.