Celebrating #WorldRadioDay: Why radio rules for equine welfare charity

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In a disaster, we’re encouraged to switch on a radio to hear life-saving messages. But for many people in developing countries, the radio is a lifeline.

Today, February 13, is World Radio Day, a day dedicated to the celebration of the wonder of radio.

For many of us the concept of a life without radio is inconceivable, it would mean not listening to the latest songs, our regular programmes or our favourite DJs but in developing countries a radio can be a crucial way of implementing change.

For international working equine charity Brooke, the use of radio is vital. It helps communicate key equine welfare messages to a wider audience and harder to reach communities who may not be able to travel regularly to meet with Brooke vets and representatives.

In Kenya Brooke partners with KENDAT to run a weekly national radio show ‘MtunzePundaAkutunze’ (‘Look after your donkey and it will look after you’) which also reaches neighbouring Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. The broadcast provides information and advice to animal owners about the importance of good equine welfare and how best to care for working animals. These lessons are encouraged through the use of rewards and prizes given to exemplary owners who demonstrate a good understanding of animal healthcare.

Local focus groups were initially organised to gain feedback from owners about the usefulness of the radio shows. In one discussion of 113 young handlers it was relayed they had learnt many beneficial lessons from the broadcasts, specifically in relation to the use of voice commands and non-injurious whips. Brooke teams also reported that in regions such as Lari and Mwea, the prevalence of wounds in donkeys had visibly reduced as a result of improved handling and care as emphasised in the radio programmes.

Brooke’s main aim when using radio broadcasting is to change attitudes and behaviour through educating communities. In Pakistan the working equine count reaches 4.75 million with the main welfare issues stemming from work-related injuries such as overloading, slit nostrils, lameness and worm infestation.
To tackle these issues Brooke conducted an awareness study where team members carried out face-to-face questionnaires with owners to collect data on their knowledge concerning their own animal’s welfare, such as their dietary and water requirements, wound management and the use of common practices including nostril slitting, which is believed to improve breathing.

The welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules is improving thanks to radio broadcasts in developing countries. © Brooke
The welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules is improving thanks to radio broadcasts in developing countries. © Brooke

Brooke followed up these questionnaires with regular regional radio messages, broadcast in the local language and conveying advice on the recommended treatment of working horses, donkeys and mules. After a month of the messages being transmitted three times a day the surveys were repeated with promising results, with more than three-quarters of owners saying they would offer their animal water four or more times a day compared with less than a third before the shows were broadcast.

Additionally, 16% of owners had learnt that nostril slitting was not beneficial to the animal and so would stop carrying out the practice. The original questionnaire had found that 83% of owners treated their animal’s wounds using traditional methods, such as ash, engine oil and household disinfectants, however after just a month of transmissions 9% were now aware of the use of saline and antiseptic.

More recently, Brooke West Africa and their local partner UGAN have begun an innovative new project which links community radios to equine owners through a web-based platform. This collaborative approach is designed to produce a more effective information system to strengthen awareness around animal welfare issues by engaging and giving a voice to equine owners.

The system has also been beneficial to local police forces. In November 2016 a prefectural bylaw was passed in Senegal which requires cart drivers to use reflectors when travelling.

The police and UGAN produced a radio programme on road safety and community members then had the opportunity to use the voice mailbox for requests such as clarifications on the bylaw or for veterinary assistance. As a result road accidents involving carts had significantly decreased by the end of December 2016.

In many of the countries Brooke works within radio is the main source of information for the residents and the charity is taking full advantage to help broadcast key equine welfare messages to remote and rural communities to continue to improve the welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules all over the world.

“So celebrate radio this World Radio Day and think of all the ways it is changing the lives of equines everywhere!”, Brooke said.

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