Ensuring Provision of Fodder for Brick Kiln Donkeys During COVID-19
Migrant workers and labourers in India’s informal sector experience the highest amounts of socio-economic disruption and are considered particularly vulnerable during COVID-19.
They lack financial security and support from social services, and have limited capacities to cope with and withstand the fallout of emergency situations. Labourers in Ambajogai – located in the western state of Maharashtra – are experiencing similar challenges during the current pandemic.
As of April, around 40% of brick kilns in Ambajogai are still functioning. Thousands of migratory workers, including equine owners, live and work in the brick kilns. The labourers earn a limited income and are accustomed to buying food supplies for a single day, and have no savings to fall back on. During the COVID-19 lockdown, only two hours are permitted daily for workers to go to the market. The situation is getting progressively worse as market supplies are diminishing, with replenishments being difficult due to restrictions in the entry and exit of suppliers. Equine owners are unable to return to their villages due to the complete cessation of public transport. Taking care of their animals has become extremely challenging.
Amar Jadhav is an equine owner working at one of the brick kilns in Ambajogai. When he observed the absence of the feed seller at the market for two consecutive days, he feared the effect of the lack of feed on his donkeys, whom his livelihood is also depended upon.
Amar reached out to Manisha, Brooke India’s Field Assistant, for help through a telephone call. Manisha assessed the situation and contacted chickpea bran sellers in the region, asking them ways provisions could be made available to the equine owners working at the brick kiln. One person agreed to sell the feed, on the condition that the equine owners would have to visit the seller’s farm and transport the feed back to the brick kiln. To help carry the fodder, Manisha and the equine owners requested the brick kiln owner to lend them his tractor. The brick kiln owner ultimately agreed to allow them to use his tractor for feed transportation until the lockdown eases.
Fodder supply is now ensured for the donkeys, much to the relief of their owners. The battle for the animals’ survival, however, has not ended.
When I visited the brick kiln again, after the provisions for fodder were made available, I felt relief when I saw the donkeys having their feed on time.
Manisha is staying in regular contact with the labourers through phone calls and, when required, is visiting the brick kilns while taking all the necessary precautions against COVID-19. She is also sharing her knowledge on preventive welfare measures with the equine owners.