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Numbered tags are matched with Ladoum sheep in an animal placement in Bonjisinthiang village, Senegal last week.

Photos by Olivier Asselin

BAKEL REGION, Senegal—A ceremony in this dusty region of eastern Senegal isn't easy to pull off. Winds gusting 15 to 25 mph threatened to launch shade tents while restive sheep darted to and fro. Handlers and young boys waving fluttering flags chased a herd of hardy ewes in celebration through cheering crowds. Occasional screeches from an overloaded P.A. system pierced the air as did shouts and cheers from the villagers gathered on the hard-packed sand of a soccer field at the edge of town. A lone baobab tree didn't even begin to stop the sun and dust.

Dignitaries clutched at their hats and women their skirts as Senegalese wrestling, traditional Pulaar dancing and speeches from project partners and local and government officials added to the festivities in Sinthiou Fissa, Senegal.

Yet in the end, community unity was the theme of the day. Enthusiastic local actors demonstrated how the animals, seeds, agricultural and social training benefit the entire community and showed that there is no better way to achieve prosperity than by working together toward a common goal.

In December alone, 460 families in 23 villages will receive sheep, goats and chickens as part of this USAID Feed the Future project to improve nutrition and income in the Matam, Bakel and Kedougou regions of Senegal. By the end of the five-year project, more than 5,500 families will receive original Heifer animals and training with thousands more benefiting from Passing on the Gift, likely Heifer's largest animal distribution ever.

Heifer is in charge of the livestock portion of the project, with other partners in the USAID-funded consortium including the lead organization Cooperative League of the USA, Counterpart International, Sheladia and Manobi. 

The project name is USAID/Yaajeende, including the local Pulaar word for abundance or prosperity.
Amadou Sall, who received sheep in the December placements, expressed the excitement of the handoff with pure joy.
"When someone comes early in the morning and gives you sheep, you can only be happy," Sall said, clutching ropes for his three new sheep in his left hand, and the orange tickets he drew for them in his right hand. "If only I could fly!

"It is too windy today, and there is much dust, but in spite of all this you are here ready to help us. We don't know how to write, but this day will never be forgotten. Even when we die, the message will be transmitted to the coming generations that one day we received visitors who gave us some sheep and promised us a better future."

This article is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of Heifer International and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.


Donna Stokes

Donna Stokes is the managing editor of World Ark magazine. She has worked for Heifer International since September 2008 when she leaped over to the nonprofit world from a two-decade career in newspaper journalism.