A s a small boy, Mohammad Dafallah would toss his school bag into the entrance of his house in the centre of his small village and he and his brother would lug shovels to their family’s land to work the farm.
Dafallah loved farming and harvesting in his village, Doka, on the Sudanese-Ethiopian border. His young life was split between school and farming but as an adult he realised his search for better opportunities would take him away from his village to the city.
After studying at Kassala University, not far from Doka, Dafallah got a job in Al-Qadarif, some 90 kilometres away from his home. “The harsh conditions in my village meant it was tempting to leave for better healthcare, education and living conditions,” he says. “It was not an easy decision since I spent my childhood in Doka – I was used to it and it was used to me. I was intimate with its streets, homes, tiny market and shabby school.”
Doka will always be my love.
Dafallah’s experience is typical of many rural Sudanese families who relocate to bigger settlements, especially the capital, Khartoum.
Most are prompted to leave because of the scant government services in villages, which have been largely left behind in terms of infrastructure developments during the past 20 years.
Meanwhile, rugged roads and long distances mean that many villagers have the odds stacked against them if they need to access education or healthcare.
In Al-Qadarif, Dafallah rented a downtown house with his sister and five brothers. They had to start afresh, creating a new social network and embarking on a new chapter in their lives.
But Mohammad, who is now 33, still misses his village family and his neighbours. “Doka will always be my love,” he says. “It fills me with memories of my childhood, friends and all the good times I spent farming and harvesting the land. I love my village and I hope I will return when the situation improves.”