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Mutual support

Although narrators say that the difficulties of daily life, and the absence of men because of migration for work, have weakened people’s ability to help each other, they do mention instances of mutual support.

Mekki talks about young people rallying round and building a new house for someone whose home had collapsed, and about people clubbing together to buy what is needed for a funeral. Ismail mentions nafeer, a form of voluntary community participation.

Several narrators praise migrants for supporting parents and elders, as well as children, and Naema says young people are “good” and look after their parents. But it is clear that support systems have been eroded to some degree. Osman says people used to help women with no family breadwinner “but now nobody cares for them”.

At the institutional level, the Zakat Bureau collects donations from those who can afford to give and distributes the money to the poorest people. El Emam says this is the only assistance for the poor: “the government provides no help or activity.”

Mekki describes the work of the local Zakat Bureau and also mentions the recent establishment of cooperative societies in the village: “this is a very good development.”


Mutual support is a key theme of the Desert voices: Sudan oral testimony project.


El Emam: no man remains

El Nour: inside my heart

Fatima: women are exhausted

Ismail: broader horizons

Madinah: progress is possible

Mekki: migration for survival

Naema: nothing the same

Osman: make land productive

Sayda: women’s lives

Widad: restoring the village

Key themes

Introduction to the project




Social change




Natural resources



Food security

Mutual support

Looking ahead