Nepal is one of the world's poorest countries, and is struggling to overcome the effects of ten years of civil war. Ranking 157th on the Human Development Index, 25 per cent of its 30.4 million people live in poverty.
Most of the country is dependent on agriculture and it’s estimated that 100,000 working horses and donkeys play an important role in supporting the livelihoods of approximately one million people.
Foreign aid is vital to Nepal, which is also heavily reliant on trade with neighbouring India.
The programme follows two different kinds of approaches, i.e. extensive in the hills (across nine districts) and intensive in the plains (across five districts) - grasslands in the foothills of the Himalayas.
In the hills the responsibility of equine care is on owners and/or handlers (a hired person by owners). Equines are the secondary source of business; one equine owner has seven to eight equines which are scattered. Equine owners are capable of paying for equine health care but there are very few or no equine health practitioners. Most of the equines in the hills are used for transporting goods.
In the plains the responsibility of equine care is on the owners themselves and equines are the primary source of their income. Each equine owner has one to two equines, and unlike those in the hills, they are concentrated in a small area. Most of the owners cannot afford to pay for their equine’s health care and also there is poor availability of equine health practitioners.
Most of the equines in the plains are used for the transport of people by cart. From 2013, our work has extended intensively into the brick kilns of Kathmandu valley across three districts in the plains.
It is estimated that only 3–5 per cent of the country’s vet services reach animal owners because there is limited technical expertise and it is generally only available in cities or major districts.
The main welfare problems include a lack of appropriate feed, water, shelter, vaccination programmes and poor understanding of animal welfare: preventable wounds, lameness, injuries and diseases are routine issues.
Making a difference
- Since 2008 we have been working to measurably improve the welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules by working in partnership with Animal Health Training and Consultancy Service (AHTCS), an experienced organisation established in Nepal in 1981. We are working in Kaski, Lamjung, Gorkha, Myagdi, Baglung, Parbat, Chitwan, Bajura, Udayapur, Illam, Dang, Darchula, Bara, Parsa, Rautahat, Banke, Bardiya, Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktpur.
- AHTCS has a proven track record running quality projects, and has strong links with policy-makers in Nepal.
- We train and strengthen animal health workers in areas where local health providers are unavailable, providing five weeks’ training for suitable candidates. We also encourage linkages between local service providers and equine owners/groups/unions.
- We supply first aid kits to working horses and donkeys to minimize the pain and suffering caused by injury or wounds on long journeys in remote areas.
- We further provide emergency and regular treatment to equines, assist community group formations and mobilisation, encourage welfare message dissemination and improve knowledge and skill enhancement of equine owners.