More donkey work as African equines seek shade and shelter

A working donkey in Ethiopia struggles under a heavy load.
A working donkey in Ethiopia struggles under a heavy load.

A new campaign to help working equines in Ethiopia is under way, following last year’s hugely successful Brooke project “Buy a Donkey a Drink”, which brought five massive new troughs into service.

This summer’s “Free The Donkeys – Give Them Shade!” campaign is focusing on providing shade shelters and water points to serve busy market areas in Bulle and Gedeb.

When working equines carry heavy loads to market over many miles, they are often tied in the hot sun all day, with their packs still loaded on their backs, with no shade or shelter, while their owners sell their goods.

Then the hot, tired, and dehydrated animals carry the unsold goods many miles home again for the night. Even once they arrive at home, many animals will still not receive water.

Thousands of equines are at risk from dehydration, heat stress, and exhaustion because of inadequate water and shelter, following long journeys in extreme temperatures while carrying impossible loads.

Brooke veterinarians identified that the major cause of mortality among these animals is colic due to dehydration. They desperately need shade shelters and watering points in the market areas – not just to make their lives easier, but to actually save their lives.

The Free The Donkeys – Give Them Shade! campaign is aiming to raise $98,000 for Brooke’s Ethiopia team to construct large shade shelters and water points.

Villagers with hobbled donkeys at a market in Ethiopia.
Villagers with hobbled donkeys at a market in Ethiopia.

The new shade shelters will be modeled after shelters that Brooke has constructed in other market areas which have proven to be of great benefit in relieving the suffering of the animals and also benefiting their poor owners. In two recently constructed Brooke shade shelters in Halaba, the number of equine deaths due to dehydration and theft fell from 87 and 54 per year respectively, to almost zero in both cases.

Construction will take three months to complete, using tin for the roof and a mixture of concrete and wood for the walls; this will allow for cooler air to move inside the shelter between the wood partitions. These partitions will enable the community to house an average of 300 equines in each shelter at a time, housing an average of 500 equines per market day, per shelter. They also have large vents along the roof line to promote ventilation. Water points will be included in the construction, allowing access to a continuous drinking source.

An architectural rendering of the types of shade shelters that Brooke will construct in two market areas.  They may not be beautiful, but they’re very practical, economical to build, and easy to maintain. Similar previously constructed shade shelters in other market areas have been very effective in lowering the mortality rates of the animals who have access to them.
An architectural rendering of the types of shade shelters that Brooke will construct in two market areas.  They may not be beautiful, but they’re very practical, economical to build, and easy to maintain. Similar previously constructed shade shelters in other market areas have been very effective in lowering the mortality rates of the animals who have access to them.

Brooke will also establish operational and management structures and systems, including training local Gharry (horse drawn taxi) cart owners to run the shelters as part of a management committee .

The operators will be trained in animal welfare, record keeping and basic business management. They will then manage the upkeep of the shelters, charging equine owners and handlers a small fee (the US equivalent of 25 to 40 cents per animal for two to three hours in the shelter with food and water). This fee will be used by the local committees to make repairs and maintain the shelters and watering points.

Help out the Free The Donkeys – Give Them Shade! campaign 

A new water trough at Shalla Woreda in Ethiopia, funded by Brooke's "Buy a Donkey a Drink" appeal.
A new water trough at Shalla Woreda in Ethiopia, funded by Brooke’s “Buy a Donkey a Drink” appeal.

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