Dr Alemayehu Hailmariam, Programme Quality and Technical Support Manager

Alemayehu from Brooke Ethiopia works in both urban and rural animal owning communities.

Alemayehu with donkey and foal

Alemayehu with donkey and foal

What time does your alarm go off and how do you start your day?

I wake up at 5am each morning. After shaving and doing my teeth, I’ll briefly catch the news headlines before leaving for the Brooke office in Addis by 7am. I normally work from 8am until 5pm, depending on what I have on that day.

What are you responsible for in your role at Brooke?

My responsibilities are to facilitate and ensure the Brooke Ethiopia community engagement and service provision programmes are in line with the needs of equines, are welfare-friendly and that owners are engaging with them. I also ensure the services we provide are of a high standard, are quality controlled and that owners are willing and able to use them.

How did you get your job?

I was looking to expand my experience dealing with pastoralist areas and farmers with livestock to people who depend on equine animals for their livelihoods. This post at Brooke Ethiopia was a perfect fit for my experience and desire to carry on helping animals and people.

When I am out in the field I will also make home visits to equine owners. I try to spend as much time with them as possible to be able to understand their lives as well as the lives of their animals.

What’s your typical day?

It depends on whether I’m in the office or working with communities. Typically I will deal with emails from the field, from my colleagues here in Addis and in the UK for an hour or so in the morning, teamed with a couple of Ethiopian coffees! I also analyse field reports from Brooke-supported communities, as well as reports from service providers on how many equines they have reached.

I provide feedback and advice via email and phone calls to field staff and service providers. When I am out in the field I will also make home visits to equine owners. I try to spend as much time with them as possible to be able to understand their lives as well as the lives of their animals.

What’s your most memorable work moment?

It was in April 2012 when I was travelling to Hosanna. On the way I noticed a donkey that appeared to be severely ill with abdominal pain (colic). The donkey was very depressed, not able to walk or willing to get up, and her young foal was worried and kept circling her. It was in a very rural setting with no access to medication or facilities.

Luckily, we were carrying some emergency drugs and tools in the Brooke vehicle. We gave the donkey pain relief and rehydrated her with clean water. Within a couple of hours, all her vital signs were restored and seeing the young foal happily walking alongside its mother is among my most favourite memories.

What is the worst part of your job?

Working in urban environments can be challenging. Urban intervention is different from rural intervention because urban equine owners and users can depend more heavily on their horses and donkeys for income to support their livelihoods. This income is often received on a daily basis and is typically used up the same day, with no chance of saving for the future. Most urban equine owners and users are poor which means sometimes their animals do not get everything they need.

We understand that urban engagement requires innovative approaches and solutions, and we are looking at ways to integrate and work with with urban organisations, not only to improve the knowledge of equine owners, but also to create a system to regulate animal welfare.

We are also looking at expanding opportunities for different sources of income for urban equine owners. This collaborative way of working is already improving the welfare of equines in these areas.

What’s the best part of your job?

Working in both rural and urban areas where the equines, their owners and local service providers are based is one of the best parts of my job.

I also enjoy training government and private veterinarians and animal health assistants out in the field, especially when I get to see the end result. Seeing a graduate veterinarian or an animal health assistant with few skills to deal with the basic conditions affecting equines initially makes me disappointed. However, after a few weeks of intensive practical and theoretical training from Brooke, seeing the young vets able to examine, diagnose and treat animals, as well as working with and advising owners, is one of the best parts of my job!

We know one-off training will not guarantee all the changes we would like to see, so Brooke staff in the field meet with the newly trained vets at least one a month to assess their equine handling and treatment practices. Seeing services improve, and the satisfaction of the equine owners using these services, is also another great part of my job.

So my plan B will rely on using the opportunities life brings me, and even if one day I’m not working for Brooke, I will continue to embrace Brooke values.

What would be your Plan B? What would you be doing if you didn't work at Brooke?

Honestly I don’t know! This is one of the key questions of life.

Life questions me on daily and hourly basis. Finding the right answer is often difficult, especially in some contexts, but taking the responsibility to find the right answers makes more sense to me. So my plan B will rely on using the opportunities life brings me, and even if one day I’m not working for Brooke, I will continue to embrace Brooke values.

What do you do after work?

I normally go for a walk before returning home. I then talk and relax with my lovely wife and kids. Sometimes we all go for a walk around where we live or I’ll meet with friends and relatives for social occasions.

What makes you proud to be Brooke?

For me, Brooke is an extraordinary organisation. It makes noise for the voiceless and for the invisible. Also, there is always critical thinking going on behind every situation which involves equines, owners, service providers or stakeholders – nothing is ever missed out and no corners are ever cut. These are the qualities which were lacking in other places I have worked, and this is why I am so proud to be Brooke.

With roughly nine million horses, donkeys and mules, Ethiopia has the third largest equine population in the world. These animals play a crucial role in the national economy but live under harsh conditions with a life expectancy of just a third of what would be expected.