High poverty rates and decades of conflict make Afghanistan a particularly challenging, but needful, context for Brooke’s work. Since 2008 we have worked in partnership with DCA Livestock Programs to improve the lives of equines and their owners

Working donkey carrying brushwood for fuel in Afghanistan

Working donkey carrying brushwood for fuel in Afghanistan

Afghanistan at a glance

Population: 35.8 million
Percentage of population living below the national poverty line: 36% 
Number of working donkeys, horses and mules: 1.7 million

Sources: World Bank 2015, World Bank 2011, FAO Livestock Census 2003


Donkeys carrying bundles of brushwood, Band-e-amir, Afghanistan

Continuous droughts and ongoing internal warfare in Afghanistan make this a challenging country to work in. It is estimated that 36 percent of the total population are living below the national poverty line and over 80% of the equine owning communities fall within this category.

Equines in Afghanistan are involved in a variety of work from transporting people and goods, to working in agriculture and brick kilns. They play an important role in supporting the livelihoods of some of Afghanistan’s poorest communities yet many experience extremely poor welfare.

Some of the main welfare issues include poor body condition, harness wounds, external parasitic infestations, colic and lameness.

Many donkeys are involved with collecting bushes from the mountainous area to sell in the towns. They usually set off at 2-3am and they’re not back until 2pm and then they have two hours travelling to the town to sell to the customers.

Dr Naseer Darwish, a facilitator at DCA


Since 2008 we have worked in partnership with the organisation DCA Livestock Programs

DCA currently works in five provinces in Afghanistan; Kabul, Bamyan, Balkh, Samangan and Nangarhar. Its work includes:

  • Strengthening communities' and equine owners’ understanding of equine welfare, especially women who are the main carers of donkeys.
  • Working with local vets, para-vets, farriers, harness-makers and traditional healers to ensure their services meet good animal welfare standards.
  • Supporting local influencers such as religious leaders and school teachers to spread the message of the importance of compassion and good practice in equine welfare.
  • Working with relevant government ministries to make a case for greater attention and recognition of the role of working animals in supporting people's livelihoods.
Children receiving training on animal welfare and compassion, Afghanistan

Village children receiving training in animal welfare and compassion

Working with children

One of the biggest strengths of the Afghanistan programme is DCA's work with children - an important group because culturally they are able to interact with both male and female owners and so can go into the homes of others in their community to assess the welfare of equines and report back to their elders during village group meetings. Many of these children handle animals or grow up to be in charge of them, and the attitudes they adopt will stay with them into adulthood.

DCA has set up child volunteer groups and printed children's books in conjunction with role-play exercises to educate children in good equine welfare practice.

Behavioural change amongst children is a sustainable way of improving equine welfare. Two of the volunteer children, who are now adults, are currently leading the adult welfare groups in their villages.

Haroon Nessar, Project Manager

Working with tradition

DCA also works with traditional and religious leaders who play a key role in shaping public opinion in Afghanistan. 

Their work with these influencers aims to build understanding of the importance of compassion and good practice in equine welfare so they can spread positive animal welfare messages to the public through talks and speeches at mosques.

Make a difference to working horses, donkeys and mules


Dr Naseer Darwish, a facilitator at DCA, explains what it’s like to work to improve the welfare of Afghanistan’s equines.

Brooke has been working in partnership with Animal Health Training and Consultancy Service (AHTCS) since 2007 to help improve the working conditions and welfare of horses and donkeys in Nepal’s poorest communities

At 228,000, Guatemala has the highest number of equines in Central America. We have worked in country since 2006, through a partnership with Equinos Sanos para el Pueblo (ESAP)

We also work through a variety of smaller projects carried out in partnership through our Innovation Fund, a fund which exists to address persistent problems affecting working equids around the world in new and effective ways