Donkey-friendly harness receives innovation funding

Farm Animal Centre for Education (FACE) in South Africa is the first recipient of Brooke’s Innovation Fund.

A representative from Farm Animal Centre for Education with a local donkey owner in Glenmore, South Africa

FACE secured funding from Brooke’s Innovation Fund for their project developing donkey-friendly harnessing in South Africa.

The project will be rolled out in Grahamstown Township, Peddie Power Township and other nearby villages in Eastern Cape. 

The Innovation Fund is an exciting opportunity to trial new ideas that increase Brooke’s impact on working equine welfare. It’s created a new appetite for trialling ideas, and importantly learning from project pilots!

Felix Holman, Innovation Coordinator, Brooke 

Brooke will work alongside FACE to develop this project and train local donkey owners to both use and make donkey specific harnesses ensuring sustainable change for the future.

Innovation will enable us to stand apart, stay one step ahead and foster sustainable solutions.

It is FACE’s work in developing a welfare friendly harness – the Powerset - that has won the attention of Brooke’s innovation funding team.

It can be made and repaired by local people through weaving plastic bags or netlon.

In villages and townships in the Eastern Cape, donkeys are used extensively for pulling ploughs for farming. Most use equipment designed for oxen, which is unsuitable for donkeys. These ill-fitting harnesses cause friction wounds and neck damage to working donkeys.  

The Powerset, designed by Dr Peta Jones, is better fitting and much kinder and can be easily made from local materials. It allows efficient use of donkey’s power-points, the chest and shoulders, for pulling and their strong withers and rump to carry the weight.

This new design also prevents the weight of the cart from resting on their necks. Using this innovative traction equipment, donkeys will sustain less work-related injuries from ill-fitting harnesses.

FACE’s experts will train local Working Donkey Champions on the Powerset. The Powerset champions will train and mentor working donkey owners on using and making the new equipment.

FACE has been working since 2012 to sustainably improve working donkeys’ health and welfare. They are committed to a new vision in which they hope ‘the status and livelihood of working donkey owners are improved, the value of working donkeys is realised, working donkeys are properly cared for and communities benefit from the services provided by working donkeys’. Crucially for resource poor areas, FACE demonstrates that simple solutions can bring great benefits to donkey welfare.

Michelle Griffith, director of FACE: “The proper use of the Powerset will be a key milestone in improving the health and welfare of working donkeys and improved livelihoods for donkey owners. We are very excited to be able to bring Dr Jones to the Eastern Cape to train FACE, the Working Donkey Champions and some of the working donkey owners in using the Powerset."

This funding has the potential to bring about significant change in donkey traction equipment and improve the lives of working donkeys.

Brooke’s Innovation Fund will provide us with the opportunity to enlist the training assistance of the experts that have designed donkey-suited traction equipment, which is the foundation to working efficiently, effectively and humanely with donkeys.

Michelle Griffith, Director, FACE

FACE’s approach recognises the strengths, potentials, talents and resources of such individuals, and helps communities to mobilise and build on these for sustainable development rather than on a needs basis.

In this way, Brooke can enable long-term sustainable change through their innovation funding scheme.

See also

This fund has been created to encourage innovative thinking, trial new ideas and develop new work that will extend our reach and impact for working equines.

The ambitious strategy launched in April 2016 recognises innovation as a key enabler to reaching its objectives and goals.

Read more about the team in the Eastern Cape Province that train Working Donkey Champions to educate owners, change attitudes and improve the lives of working donkeys in under-resourced communities.