Back when most of their husbands moved away, and with the threat of desertification literally at their doorsteps, the women of the villages dedicated all their strength and energy to agriculture.
But their outdated, inefficient equipment and the rising cost of fuel, ratcheted up financial pressures.
"We have always had to pay for the fuel to drain water from the river and irrigate the fields," explains Sarr. "But in recent years, more and more of it was required and we ended up spending most of our money on gasoline."
Then, a beacon of hope appeared five years ago in the form of renewable energy. Desperate and eager for change, dozens of women from the villages joined forces. With the support of the NGO Green Cross, they launched the project Energy to Stay. New technologies have since been installed in the villages to draw water from the river and irrigate the fields.
Instead of using expensive gasoline to pump water, solar panels now power a water collection system. The new system also irrigates the fields using pipelines buried in the soil to gradually deliver the water over time, as opposed to the old method called "flooding", whereby the pump released water into channels dug in the ground. Green Cross estimates this change has led to a water-saving of 70 percent.
"We stayed and decided to learn solar engineering to irrigate the fields," says Mame Yaye Pam, the president of the village Koundel, 45km (28 miles) south of Sinthiou Diam Dior. Solar panels allow them to reduce gasoline consumption by 2,700 litres a year, she says.
In each village, year after year, the solar irrigation system allows the cultivation of more than 60 hectares (148 acres) of land, in turn producing enough fruit and vegetables to feed more than 900 people.
Mame Yaye Pam
"This has been the best year of harvest thanks to solar power," says Diallo, looking at the fields along the river, where green shoots have sprouted in patches that had once turned brown.
"This has allowed us to increase our income, thus reducing poverty and having quality vegetable consumption in families. We're doing well, we can feed our children and even save some money by selling at the market."
The aim of the operation was to rehabilitate farmland in an environmentally sustainable manner, and in so doing ensure that the local population has a supply of fresh produce they can eat and sell to generate an income, says Alessandra Pierella, the manager of the Green Cross project.
"Now the women have learned to use the machinery and manage the fields, becoming entirely independent," Pierella says. "We managed to eliminate the women's expenses and their carbon dioxide emissions are now zero."
Alongside the technology, more sophisticated farming techniques have been developed, such as crop rotation - which reduces waste and optimises production, President Yaye Pam says.
To help formalise the structure of the operation, a women's association has been formed for the region and in each village, a president, a treasurer, and a secretary has been elected.