The socio-economic contribution of working equids in Senegal

There are an estimated 544,000 horses and 462,000 donkeys in Senegal. 95% of this equine population support communities, for example by transporting commercial goods, water and people. Our research highlights the positive socio-economic role of horses and donkeys to communities, but also the welfare risks many working equids face.

The study explores the economic and social contribution of working equids to communities living in rural and urban areas in Senegal. We conducted research with four rural farming communities in Senegal’s largest agricultural area, the groundnut basin region. In urban areas, we assessed the economic and social contribution of 180 horse-drawn vehicles to commercial drivers’ lives.  

    Key findings

    Urban areas

    • Equid-drawn vehicles provide employment and regular income to drivers who provide transport services in urban settings. Horses contribute to 88% of their driver’s annual income and donkeys contribute 74%.
    • People living in rural settings also use these vehicles to earn additional income during the dry season when they migrate to the city for work.
    • The most common uses of donkeys and horses were used to transport people and goods.
    • People earned higher or equivalent to the minimum wage of a manual worker. Their average daily income from equine-drawn vehicles amounted to:
      $5 (USD) for horse drawn carriages
      $12 (USD) for horse carts
      $3.50 (USD) for donkey carts

    Rural areas

    • Horse and donkeys are used for seeding, transporting crops and agricultural equipment. They also drive children to school and transport family members to healthcare services, as many local health clinics are not accessible without an animal-drawn cart.
    • The contribution of working animals’ traction power to the economy of rural households is very significant, even though differences have been noted between the two surveyed areas.
    • Without horse power, households can only farm smaller areas for crops and some even stop their production. This reduction of cultivated areas leads to a decrease in the quantities of groundnut, grains or niebe produced by households. These are essential crops that communities eat and sell. Such a decrease represents two thirds of the value of the agricultural production in the surveyed areas.
    • In pastoral areas, equids (particularly donkeys) transport water to communities, to meet families’ needs and watering for small livestock and calves.

    Donkey care and well-being

    • Respondents stated that stops and rests were more dependent on the tiredness of the people and cattle than on the needs of the equids.
    • It was reported that when carrying water or during their movement, weakened or wounded donkeys are replaced by others.


    • The study provided data and information on the roles played by donkeys and horses in urban and rural areas. It’s recommended that an advocacy campaign is formulated and implemented to ensure that working equids are mainstreamed in public policies on agriculture, animal production and transportation.
    • The welfare of donkeys and horses was found to be concerning in some of the study locations. Further research looking at additional aspects such as the age of drivers of equid drawn vehicles and how this relates to child labor regulations would be also be beneficial.