With around 11 million horses, donkeys and mules, Ethiopia has the third-largest equine population in the world. We have been working in country since 2006.

Ethiopia at a glance

Population: 109 million
Percentage of people living below the international poverty line: decreased from 30% in 2011, to 24% in 2018.
Number of working equines: 11 million

Sources: World Bank 2015/18, and FAO 2018


Ethiopia is the second-most populous nation in Africa after Nigeria, and has the fastest growing economy in the region. However, it is also one of the poorest, with a per capita income of $783 (World Bank 2019).

In rural Ethiopia, equines transport water, grains, fuel wood and agricultural products. In urban areas, they transport goods and people.

Although equines play a crucial role in the national economy, their welfare is extremely poor, especially in urban areas. Predominant welfare issues include wounds, eye problems, lameness, hoof problems, parasites and poor body condition.

Donkey carrying fodder, Halaba, Ethiopia

What are we doing?

Our goal is to improve the welfare of 446,681 working equines in Ethiopia, including those most hard-to-reach (who number 17,468), by 2021 through:

  • working with equine owners, users and handlers to improve their welfare practices and the livelihood of equine owners
  • working with local animal health practitioners, including vets, farriers, cart-makers and saddlers to ensure good quality services are available for working animals
  • supporting the improvement of equine facilities such as shelters, water points and service centres
  • working to increase the access communities have to equine medicines through the Drug and Vaccine Revolving Fund (DVRF) initiative
  • raising the profile of equine welfare in government policy and legal frameworks

Snapshot of our work

Gharry horses drinking outside a shelter, Halaba, Ethiopia

Improving conditions for gharry (taxi) horses

Over the past 11 years, Brooke Ethiopia has made significant progress in addressing the needs of these extremely vulnerable horses through the creation of gharry horse associations and by encouraging authorities to adopt bylaws to regulate the operation. 

Working with equine owners

We work with equine owners and users to share knowledge and understanding of good equine health and husbandry practices. This includes promoting practices such as wound management, eye cleaning, watering, feeding, grooming and hoof picking, and discouraging practices like beating and overloading. 

Working with 'change agents'

Brooke Ethiopia uses change agents (voluntary community-champions for equine welfare) to build up trust within hard-to-reach communities, engage them in equine welfare issues and bring about change from within. Brooke trains change agents to pass on knowledge, equipping them with useful tools such as simple, pictorial guides on how to improve equine welfare. 

Increasing access to equine medicines

Brooke Ethiopia works to increase the access owners have to equine medicines, through their Drug and Vaccine Revolving Fund (DVRF) initiative. The funds provide a supply of drugs for livestock and Brooke works to ensure they also include medicines for equines. 

Related news

In her job as Brooke’s Community Engagement Advisor, Melissa Liszewski sees Brooke’s work with horses in Ethiopia first-hand.

Brooke has worked with the government to enforce the by-laws in Halaba, Ethiopia, which will enable its teams to euthanise abandoned working equines when extreme injuries or disease mean they are beyond medical help. The will mean that many working horses, donkeys and mules will be relieved from prolonged suffering. 


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