1 December 2021

The Little Christmas Helper: What do working horses and donkeys bring to the table?

All around the world, millions of people depend on working horses, donkeys and mules to help them earn a living and put food on the table for their families.

From transporting water and firewood for cooking, to ploughing fields or producing manure to be used as fertiliser, working equines play a vital role in ensuring people around the world can feed themselves and their animals.

A 2018 study by Brooke West Africa found that in parts of Senegal, families who owned a donkey could produce 78% more groundnuts, 46% more maize and 45% more millet than those without. And in Kenya, a 2019 report by KALRO found that donkey transport enabled some households to earn the equivalent of £78 a month to spend on food and school fees.

A vital role

Fridah, 13, lives in Kenya on a small farm with her family and three donkeys, cows, pigs and a goat. Every day, she gets up at 6am to give her donkeys their breakfast of maize, banana leaves and vegetables before walking 1.5km to school where she attends the Donkey Care Club, set up by Brooke to teach children how to care for their animals at home.

While Fridah is at school, her donkeys are often hired out to other villagers to help carry rice from the nearby fields. She said: “The donkeys help us get money by fetching water and transporting big bags of rice from the fields and take them to other people’s houses.”

Fridah and her three donkeys

Also in Kenya, Josephine, Beatrice and Florence are all members of a women’s group in Mwingi, which uses donkeys to collect and sell water for drinking and cooking. The women have to walk for 15km to the nearest river to collect water, so their donkeys are essential for them to carry the heavy 20 litre jerry cans back to their village.

Meanwhile, in Nicaragua, Inmer owns a dairy barn and works each day with his horse, Rabbit. Rabbit is strong and large and helps to load the milk and harvest. He also carries the firewood that is used in the house to light the stove and prepare the food for Inmer’s entire family.

These are just a few real life examples of the vital role that working horses, donkeys and mules play in getting food to the table for millions of people around the world. Despite this, their role is often overlooked by policy makers. Together, we can change this.

Brooke works with owners, communities, local health providers and policy makers to advocate for working equines and give a voice to the voiceless.

This Christmas, help us put working horses, donkeys and mules centre stage by watching and sharing our new animation, The Little Christmas Helper.