This is the 2nd time that Zambezi Working Donkey Project has been a recipient of AKI's Africa-Based Animal Welfare Organization Grant Program. Their current grant project is a follow-on to their 1st grant. This year's grant will fund ZWDP's Community Education Project, which is "educating rural communities about the welfare of donkeys through community training days and educational programs in schools with the assistance of existing Community Livestock Officers* (CLOs)."
October was a busy month for ZWDP! They used part of the grant from AKI to train CLOs. Eight new CLOs from four neighboring villages received donkey care and welfare training during October.
Firstly, the CLOs were instructed about the basic needs of donkeys: food, water, rest, and shade and given a helpful reference guide on the responsibilities of donkey owners. The CLOs were also taught basic signs of sickness to be able to identify a donkey needing help and the importance of getting veterinary care for wounds.
The training emphasized the important differences between harnessing a donkey and an ox. Using ox yokes, which are far too heavy and poorly fitting for a donkey's anatomy, causes pain and suffering as well as permanent deformities.
The CLOs were taught how to properly load a donkey cart--so that they can easily spot a poorly loaded cart and understand how to show an owner what improvements need to be made.
Sjeel Haarhuis, Project Coordinator for ZWD, reported that the training session was a huge success. "Everyone was super engaged and enthusiastic to be learning about donkey welfare," he said. The work that ZWDP is doing in teaching CLOs and through them, teaching dozens of local donkey owners, is a huge step in bringing about better lives for these proverbial beasts of burden. Another part of AKI's grant will be used to develop an education program which will be rolled out to pupils in grades 6 and 8 in local schools. Sjeel is collaborating with Zambezi Animal Welfare Service, who have a lot of expertise with humane education projects, to develop informative and fun activities for the students. In these rural areas, there is minimal understanding of animal welfare, Sjeel explains, so the materials and education will be starting with the basics.
The humane education component is so important since it's usually children who are responsible for taking care of a family's donkeys:
*For their 1st AKI grant, in July, August, and September 2020, ZWDP trained 24 CLOs, who then went back to their communities to oversee donkey care and welfare. The role of a CLO, a ZWDP innovation, is to:
- Educate owners and those who use donkeys for farming and transport to better care for them, and train them how to use a donkey under draught power, including making and maintaining correct harnesses;
- Provide basic wound care and liaise with veterinarians for treatment of sick or injured animals;
- Monitor and report back on donkeys we have worked with and help identify issues in the field so we can be more mobile and respond quicker;
- Liaise with ZWDP and other partner organizations to empower farmers with information, technical support and the tools for income diversification and generation; and
- Act as ZWDP's ‘eyes and ears’ in the field, alerting ZWDP to information regarding the donkey skin trade and other illegal practices as soon as possible.