21 September 2021

4 sustainable development projects for the environment, animals and communities

Children at a Donkey Care Club in Kenya grow and sell crops to invest money back into their school.

Communities in low- and middle-income countries are often hit hardest by the effects of climate change and environmental degradation. Drought, floods and changes in rainfall impact people’s access to food and ability to care for their working animals.   

An estimated 100 million working horses, donkeys and mules contribute to the lives of 600 million people. Despite their vital contribution to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), these animals are largely overlooked in development programmes and policy.

The transformative potential of the SDGs can only be achieved if organisations take an intersectional approach to development. Here are four Brooke projects that are harnessing the power of working animals to create lasting change for the environment, communities and their animals.

Tackling de-forestation and building a sustainable income in Kenya

Communities living next to forests in Nyandarua and Nakuru have long used donkeys to transport water, crops and building materials across the rough natural terrain. However, deforestation is causing rivers to dry up and less rain to fall, leaving donkeys with less water to drink and less pastures to graze.

Thanks to a programme by Brooke East Africa, KENDAT and the Kenyan Forest Service, six communities with 600 donkeys were allocated 1-2 acres of forest land for two years. Communities use the land to set up nurseries to grow tree seedlings. They can also use the land to graze their donkeys or grow crops.

Communities sell the seedlings or plant them to conserve the forest. So far, 1 million trees have been planted. 2 million seedlings have been sold and the community has used the income for veterinary care for donkeys and other community projects.

Turning donkey manure into an environmentally friendly source of energy in Senegal

In early 2019, Brooke’s Innovation Project funded a pilot project at a school in Bambey, Senegal. Donkey owners from nearby villages to brought their donkeys’ manure to the school, where it was placed into a biogas digester.

The gas that was captured from the manure was converted into energy, which powered the school’s kitchen stove and classroom lights. Any excess waste that could not be converted was used as fertiliser in the community gardens by local women’s groups in the fields opposite the school. The vegetables grown in the garden were then cooked in the kitchen and served to the children at lunchtime.

Traditionally, some communities believe that donkey manure causes tetanus. Thanks to projects like this, Brooke continues to change misconceptions and promote the various benefits of donkeys.

Creating a greener environment for animals and people working in tough conditions

With temperatures exceeding 120°F, conditions in brick kilns are extremely tough and can take a heavy toll on their human and animal workforce, as well as damaging the natural environment.

A 2019 Brooke study revealed that, within half an hour of working at brick kilns, equines would invariably start to show symptoms of heat stress. Provision of adequate shade and water can prevent heat stress, so Brooke India planted 206 trees at 65 brick kilns in four districts of Karnal, Kaithal, and Kururkshetra.

Brooke's sustainable approach to animal, human and environmental welfare motivated some communities to plant even more saplings for even greener working conditions.

Passing on skills and knowledge to Kenya’s next generation of donkey owners

Launched in 2004, Brooke’s Donkey Care Clubs play an important role in teaching the next generation of donkey owners how to care for and protect their donkeys through poetry, song and dance.

These clubs also grow crops such as onions, bananas, sugar cane and grass for donkeys. The crops are grown on land within the school grounds and are fertilised using donkey manure. The children sell the crops to their teachers and the money they earn is invested back into the school. The children have a rota for watering the plants so that even in school holidays, the crops continue to grow.