Abibatou Goudiaby: "all I know is farming"

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Abibatou Goudiaby: "all I know is farming"

Abibatou Goudiaby, aged 21 and married with three children, lives in Kagnarou village, Casamance, Senegal. She says, "Of course I would do something better if given the chance. But… I have to take farming seriously… All I know is farming."

Abibatou describes a happy childhood in a polygamous farming family. The compound had six houses and "was very well organized" under the watchful eye of the elders. She recalls the practice of helping anyone who had run out of food: "…the others will wait till late night and bring him rice in a very discreet way. It was only in the early morning that [he]…would discover the rice. He would take it without knowing who gave him the rice. It was a way of protecting the pride of whoever was poor."

Abibatou is concerned that animal husbandry practices have deteriorated since her childhood. "Nowadays people don't bother," she says. "They find it hard to draw water for cattle to drink, let alone washing their sheep and doing other chores. People devote themselves to activities that bring immediate money. They don't have the patience…of our fathers."

She says that because of the short rain cycle these days, and the need to plant quickly, people often have to hire help from agricultural associations. "You have to plan your work very tightly, otherwise you will have nothing," she observes. "… We should also adapt our working equipment," she says, as the traditional kadiandou tilling tool "…doesn't allow you to work fast enough" in the short rainy season. "If I had a cart with oxen, proper equipment to weed the grass, our lives would improve fast, and we can forget poverty," Abibatou observes.

Illiterate herself, Abibatou is adamant that education "can improve the life of a peasant" and enable people to farm more efficiently. "For instance," she says, "you can get to know what fertilizers or what seeds to use, or how to use them." Likewise with animal husbandry: "Suppose you want to raise sheep. If you are educated you can know what the best feed for the sheep is. If a sheep falls ill and the vet prescribes a medicine… if you can read the prescription you will do the right thing."

Educating her children is of the highest importance to Abibatou. "That's why I urge my children to study," she explains, "and do everything for them to do their homework, like buying kerosene for the lamp... It's for their future." She is concerned that "Girls are always in a hurry to make some money by going to Dakar to work as maids" and believes they "should first try hard at school" before resorting to this option. "Girls should also have higher ambitions than being maids," she remarks. "Why can't they aim to work in offices like men?"

Abibatou is strongly opposed to arranged marriages and argues that parents should not look at whether a prospective husband is rich or poor. "It's God who gives wealth...", she says. "So when your daughter says ‘I want to marry this man', you must have faith. Give her your blessing and let her go."