5 July 2021

Animals play a crucial role in human livelihoods in Central America – they must be included in disaster preparedness plans

Ahead of Brooke's virtual side event at this week's High Level Political Forum, Fredred Valdivia, Regional Representative of Brooke Latin America Central (BLAC) explores the vital contribution of working animals in disaster prone areas.

A working animal carries firewood in Guatemala

The region of Central America is characterised by intense tectonic and volcanic activity, and is exposed to extreme climatic phenomena such as hurricanes and prolonged droughts. Three of the countries where Brooke has a presence, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, are among the top 15 in the world with a greater climate risk, according to the German Watch Global Climate Risk Index. In fact, just between October and November 2020, two high-intensity hurricanes known as ETA and IOTA, hit these three countries in a two-week period, leaving great destruction in their wake.

In the face of the growing effects of climate change and disasters, we recognise that the national priority for government is human life, but working animals often play a crucial role in the immediate and long-term aftermath of disaster events. They deliver life-saving aid and they are also used post-disaster to cope with a lack of infrastructure. Working animals support community resilience through adaptation to new environmental conditions, support livelihoods and the diversification of income streams, and they can provide a more environmentally sustainable way of working, helping to protect food security and reducing vulnerability to future disaster events. Although the literature more commonly refers to the role of animals in disaster relief.

With this in mind, BLAC works with governments, decision makers and civil society to raise awareness of the Livestock Emergencies Guidelines and Standards (LEGS), an independent initiative that calls for international standards for livestock emergency interventions, to ensure the inclusion of working animals within the National System for the Prevention, Mitigation and Attention of Disasters, and Local Disaster Preparedness and Response Plans.

BLAC is leading the way through the signing of two agreements with the Co-Direction of the National System for the Prevention, Mitigation and Attention of Disasters (SINAPRED) which calls for the "Inclusion of cattle and working equines in Disaster Risk Management Instruments in Nicaragua". This will be implemented in 2021 through technicians of other key government institutions that foresee animal health and environment in the country. These partners have diligently travelled around the country, equipping families and local municipal authorities in LEGS.

There is also consistent progress in the region through our partners VSF (Justicia Alimentaria) in Honduras, and Centro Humboldt in Nicaragua. Vulnerable communities from the Dry Corridor, highly affected by floods and droughts, have built good practices around this approach with the construction of shelters under the animal welfare approach using local materials, and appointed local managers of animal welfare to organise the care of animals, especially equines and during emergencies. It is also important to practice performing drills and simulations to validate response plans, rescue actions, evacuation and security plans, plots establishing food crops for families and working animals. 

By including the needs of working equines in all stages of Disaster Risk Management, communities that depend on them to sustain their livelihoods, will be able to recover faster in the face of disasters. Healthier working equines offer long lasting benefits, especially in post-disaster recovery as they are useful in transporting construction materials to rehabilitate homes, facilitate access to water, goods, medicines, and as financial assets of rapid exchange to solve other needs.

Whilst Brooke is passionate about the inclusion of working animals within local capacity building and strengthened disaster preparedness and response systems, we cannot do this alone. Through these powerful alliances, we are changing the lives of working equines for good and contributing to food security for thousands of families in the Central America region. 


06 July 2021, 12:30 – 2:00 pm (BST time) 

In rural communities across Latin America, working donkeys, horses, mules and oxen are a vital resource. Enabling their owners to maintain their livelihoods in times when this is threatened. This webinar will examine innovations that have improved resilience in Central America, in the context of sustainable livelihoods and disaster preparedness and response.