Research reveals crucial role of donkeys in Burkina Faso

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The study demonstrated the crucial role of donkeys to the local economy and household livelihoods, maintenance of tradition, and resilience across different communities in Burkina Faso.
The study demonstrated the crucial role of donkeys to the local economy and household livelihoods, maintenance of tradition, and resilience across different communities in Burkina Faso. © Justice Nnyigide / Brooke

Life is much better in Burkina Faso if you own a donkey, according to the latest research by international animal welfare charity Brooke.

A study has found that cart drivers in urban areas of Burkina Faso rely on donkeys for an average of more than 85% of their total income.

And in rural areas, families would have to spend an extra £395 a year to complete tasks such as transporting harvests or cultivating if they did not have a donkey.

In Burkina Faso, a large proportion of the population depends on agriculture for its livelihood and there is a heavy reliance on working equines. Despite this important contribution, there is little research on the economic impact of donkeys on livelihoods and, as such, this often obstructs their consideration in public policies and legislation, which focus primarily on production animals.

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa that covers about 274,200 square kilometres. It is bordered by Mali to the northwest, Niger to the northeast, Benin to the southeast, Togo and Ghana to the south, and the Ivory Coast to the southwest.

Last year, Brooke, which works with animals and communities in Burkina Faso through its office in Senegal, carried out qualitative research in five regions to build a broad picture of the role working equines play in community life. Some 210 cart drivers were selected, alongside 235 farmers, and 387 pastoralists.

The study demonstrated the crucial role of donkeys in the local economy and household livelihoods. A Ministry of Livestock official in Burkina Faso noted: “I’ve been working at the Ministry of Livestock for 18 years. But it is only by working in the surveys for this study that I realised the importance of donkeys in the livelihoods of populations.

“I have to confess that donkeys have never been a priority. I do hope that this study will contribute to a better consideration for these animals.”

Brooke’s West Africa team will use the findings to advocate for authorities to pay more significant consideration to donkeys in public development policies and raise public awareness of welfare. The team will also engage with the Burkina Faso Ministry of Livestock to have donkeys included in disease prevention plans to fight recurrent equine disease outbreaks.

Research is a hugely important part of Brooke’s global work and is essential in providing an increased understanding of the issues working equines and their owners face. This study in Burkina Faso is just one of the projects Brooke undertook last year, and outlined in its 2020 Research Review.

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