Crucial role of equines highlighted at World Water Week

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Jasmine loads her donkey at a water point at Nuu, a village near Mwingi in North East Kenya. During drought women have to travel longer distances to obtain water for their families and animals. A donkey will carry 100kg of water. A woman can manage only 25kg so life without a donkey can become intolerable.
Jasmine loads her donkey at a water point at Nuu, a village near Mwingi in North-East Kenya. During drought, women have to travel long distances to obtain water for their families and animals. A donkey will carry 100kg of water. A woman can manage only 25kg so life without a donkey can become intolerable. © Crispin Hughes/The Donkey Sanctuary

The crucial role donkeys, horses and mules play in collecting and distributing clean, fresh water for millions of people, will be emphasised as part of this year’s World Water Week conference.

The international event to tackle global water challenges starts on Monday, August 23. Organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), World Water Week has been running for 30 years and is a regular feature in the international development calendar.

On the opening day of the conference, virtual event-goers will be able to watch a short film made by The Donkey Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare of equines supporting communities in collecting water. The film includes a Q&A session with questions from the audience possible via a live chat function.

Valentina Riva, Advocacy Manager at The Donkey Sanctuary said: “In a world of technological innovation, the traditional use of donkeys for collecting water and other resources, carrying out agricultural tasks and environmental management is not always recognised.

“But this invaluable workforce still offers the most practical and affordable means of resource and livelihood security for millions of people. Furthermore, we must acknowledge the inextricable link between human and animal welfare and recognise that improving animal welfare, in turn, helps human health.”

For many communities, particularly those on a lower income, donkeys, horses and mules can offer the most reliable means of transport where vehicles are too expensive or unsuitable for the terrain.

Working equines also help to promote gender equality by giving women owners’ improved social status and helping to free them from domestic drudgery, such as collecting water from long distances. In turn, this helps women to engage in other income-generating activities and ensure their children go to school.

The storytelling event: “Hidden in Plain Sight: Working Animals, Water Security and Communities” is the first of two being hosted by The Donkey Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare during World Water Week.

A donkey owner loads water containers.
A donkey owner loads water containers. © The Donkey Sanctuary

The second event: “Often Visible Rarely Seen: Working Animals and Water Resilience”, on Wednesday, August 25 is purely interactive. Speakers, including Daniela Battaglia from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Kusum Athukorala from NetWater, Thandiwe Chidavarume from Women and Land in Zimbabwe and Kanika Thakar from the Swedish Red Cross, will present and then participate in a live Q&A session.

Both events will run via the main conference platform, Pathable.

The current Covid-19 global health crisis has highlighted the need for access to clean water globally for handwashing and general hygiene. The conference also follows the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which warned global warming is dangerously close to spiralling out of control because of the activity of humans.

Ian Cawsey, Director of Advocacy & Campaigns at The Donkey Sanctuary said in some of the most challenging parts of the world, well cared for working donkeys, horses and mules are crucial in mitigating the effects of climate change and building resilience to extreme events.

“It is a privilege to host live events, which address challenges such as water management in these unprecedented times of climate change, especially with the UK hosting COP-26 (2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference) later this year.“

» To attend the free virtual events of World Water Week from August 23 to 27, register here. Once registered, search for the event title and follow the relevant Pathable link.

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