The Mbugwe are Bantu people forming a small ethnic group of about 40,000 people, who live in Northern and Central Tanzania, in the Lake Manyara area.
According to some oral traditions, the Mbugwe are orginally Rangi people who used to live in the Dodoma region, in Central Tanzania, and over the centuries moved Northwards in search of the salt of alkaline lakes and then settled there; their territory borders the Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara and the Rift Valley undercliff.
The neighbours of the Mbugwe are the Maasai and the Datoga, both of Nilotic origin, which contributed to put the Mbugwe in linguistic isolation, and even cause the disappearance of this interesting language, and recent studies have focused on this language since the Mbugwe are the only people speaking a Bantu language in this area.
Two distinctive features characterize the Mbugwe: their pronounced pierced ears and facial markings, the latter being a trait inherited from the Datoga.
Mbugwe villages, embedded between the savannahs and the Rift Valley, consist of flat-roofed huts whose walls are built with tree trunks lashed together with branches that are hardened with mud and cow droppings to better resist the strong winds sweeping the planes, while the roof has a lighter structure made by intertwining millet stems.
The interior of the huts consists of several rooms, a kitchen, a sleeping area and sometimes a small stable for the livestock; farming is the staple activity to the Mbugwe and they mainly grow rice, maize, millet, sunflowers, peanuts, cotton and beans; they usually own some livestock, mostly cattle and goats that provide milk and meat; the livestock is kept close to the homes to be guarded against raiding by neighbouring populations; some huts, though mostly in the past, have a small room where animals are kept during the night.
Weaving is also an important activity of Mbugwe life; women use to weave wickers to cover the floor of their huts as well as large baskets to store and preserve rice and maize; most Mbugwe keep practicing their original ancestral religion and using plants and bushes for healing.