Villagers evaluate animal welfare

Brooke West Africa and their partner UGPM have developed a traffic light system to help villagers evaluate the welfare of their equines.

Horse being evaluated in Mekhe, Senegal

The process involves villagers getting together and assessing each other's animals through a checklist of animal welfare issues, which includes hoof quality, response when a person approaches the animal, and body lesions. This originated from Brooke’s Standardised Equine Based Welfare Assessment Tool (PDF 261KB). To simplify the evaluation, villagers score the animals red for bad, orange for acceptable and green for good.

Brooke and UGPM (Union des Groupements Paysans de Meckhé) have seen many benefits from the Traffic Light Auto-Evaluation System.

Under a large tree in the centre of Goli village, Senegal, residents congregate. Forming a circle, one by one they bring their animal into the middle for the whole village to evaluate the animal's welfare.

Goli village has been using this process for some time now, and that was evident in the results. All villagers scored green in husbandry and handling, showing the capacity for this evaluation system to unlock empathy in equine owners.

The score card

The main problems found during this session were ectoparasites, hoof care and resources for shelters. With support from Brooke and UGPM, the villagers can learn from these results and each other. 

It is a useful tool with lots of learning. In the dry season a lot of men go to the city to work leaving the women so we need to know how to look after the animals.

Goli villager

Another benefit of this process is that the evaluation is conducted by peers within the community and everyone supports each other, encouraging best welfare practices. There was a fantastic moment in Goli when a villager got all green for her donkey and everyone clapped and cheered.

If an owner doesn’t receive all green, they feel motivated to work on getting it next time. Nogaye Samb, an equine owner in the village, admits tethering caused a wound and after her last assessment, she loosened the rope and the wound has healed: “We want to be better next time if we don't get all green.”

The Traffic Light Auto-Evaluation System is an effective community engagement tool. As well as encouraging best practice, it creates a platform from which owners can learn from each other and it motivates them to improve. It is a great example of how community engagement initiatives can drastically improve the welfare of working equines.

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To reach more horses, donkeys and mules, and provide better support for owners to create lasting change.