It’s 110 degrees and blowing dust while Khady Sarr stands over a pot of millet simmering on an open flame. All around the village of Diarrere, other women are doing the same. Smoke rises from sandy courtyards encircled by mud brick huts and fences woven from craggy twigs. This lunchtime scene is their tradition.

In rural Senegal women take on the lion’s share of work around the house, but for Sarr, the burdens are even greater. Her husband is sick with a chest ailment that first attacked four years ago, so she has to do his share of work in the field when the rainy season comes and it’s time to plant.

Sarr's workload increased a bit last year when she got three sheep from Heifer, but caring for the animals is something she doesn't mind at all. Healthy rams can fetch up to the equivalent of $1,000 during Muslim religious holidays. Sarr is eager for the chance to make enough money that she has savings and plenty of food to eat.

Luckily she has help caring for the new animals from her sons, ages 20 and 24, who remain

unmarried and live at home. Her oldest son Dam Ndong is a thick-necked, solid-muscled fighter who sometimes travels to Dakar to make money in traditional wrestling matches. It's difficult to imagine him losing, and he admits he doesn't very often. Despite his success, he always returns to Diarrere to help his mother.

Of Sarr’s three daughters, the oldest is married and the youngest is in school and living at home. Her middle daughter, age 14, left Diarrere to be a maid in the city. She landed in the home of a teacher, who promised to pay her tuition beginning next year so she can finish junior high and go to high school.

Sarr is glad for the help, and glad her daughter will get her wish of keeping in school so that maybe she can be a doctor someday. “That one is really clever, really eager to study,” said Sarr, who never went to school herself.

Photos by Geoff Oliver Bugbee

Austin and Geoff are in Senegal reporting on Heifer projects there for World Ark magazine.

Author

Austin Bailey

Austin Bailey is a writer and editor for Heifer's World Ark magazine.