Demba, Senegalese retiree returning from France
This migrant story is included in Dia, Chapter 22 of the volume
Demba is a former migrant, now retired. He was born in 1940 and still lives in the village of his birth. He recounts that he started going to the city to look for work in the 1950s. He is one of seven siblings (four brothers and three sisters). His father was the village chief and in charge of collecting taxes. It was he who asked Demba to go to Dakar to work for four months, giving him money for the journey, and to bring back cash. In the capital, Demba was taken in by an uncle who helped him find work as a day labourer in a cement factory. He returned home with what was a considerable sum at the time, enabling him to honour his father’s wishes and to meet other needs: he bought livestock, built a house with a zinc roof – they were popular at the time – and helped two of his brothers buy light agricultural implements so that they could grow millet and maize, in addition to vegetables, for the family’s food needs.
For four years in a row, Demba travelled back and forth between Dakar and his village of origin in present-day Matam. He emigrated to France in 1961, where he lived until his retirement in the early 2000s and returned to his village. Over there, he is a respected elder. He provides counsel to all, in particular one of his younger brothers, who is currently the village chief. The role played by Demba in his family in the late 1950s – the wage earner, in particular, to pay taxes and other expenses – was not unusual. Many people of his generation from Senegal's Middle Valley had the same experience at the time. It was the context back then – monetarization and the obligation to meet the requirements of the modern administration – that prompted people to adapt their economic behaviour and change their mobility habits, which had previously been shaped by their ties to animal husbandry.