The benefits working animals bring to humans

A new report shows how working horses, donkeys and mules are throwing a lifeline to poor communities in Ethiopia.

Brooke study highlights benefits of owning working animals

Ethiopia has the third largest equine population in the world with around eight million horses, donkeys and mules while 83% of Ethiopia’s population live in rural areas and are primarily engaged in agriculture. (Central Statistics Agency, Ethiopian Government, 2010).

In the Livelihoods Report, at least 40% of households surveyed said donkeys helped reduce women’s work while all communities said equine animals were economically important for rural and urban communities for all wealth groups.

Average benefit over US$300

The report shows the average household net return from equine ownership and use was 4419 ETB (US$330 USD) per year.


“The income derived from equine animals allows people to buy tools and grain, clothing and shoes, as well as offering families the chance to pay for schooling for their children,” said Berhanu Admassu, co-author of the Brooke’s report.

“With this in mind, it is important that resources are invested by existing institutions to support the use of equine animals,” he added.

Donkeys are used to transport everything from people to building materials, playing a vital role as ambulance services in some communities.

Read how the Brooke is supporting animals and their owners In Ethiopia.

Despite their contribution, donkeys often suffer from feed shortages, poor health, low status and poor husbandry leading to a reduced work output and loss of income for owners. Overloading and overworking, together with poor roads and shelter were also reported as major problems.

The study concluded that for subsistence agriculture, highly susceptible to climatic risk, diversification into non-farm activities could be the most appropriate solution.

“The Brooke is working to increase national and international recognition of the role of working equines in poverty alleviation, supporting sustainable livelihoods and the national economy,” said Ethiopia country director of the Brooke.

“We hope this study raises awareness about the importance of equine animals and contributes to the debate about their value.”

Download the Livelihoods Report

More about our work in Ethiopia

More stories from Ethiopia


Donkeys helping women to carry water in SNNPR

Donkeys helping women to carry water in SNNPR © The Brooke.

A crowd looks on as a Brooke vet examines a horse

The report shows the average household net return from equine ownership and use was 4419 ETB (US$330 USD) per year.

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