For the past 20 years, SPANA has been supporting small organisations as part of our veterinary outreach programme. We visit South Africa to see the impact that the Working Donkey Champions (WDCs) programme is having on the quality of life for donkeys and their owners.
The SPANA funded programme Working Donkey Champions (WDCs) is run by South African organisation The Farm Animal Centre for Education (FACE) to educate owners and inform the general public about donkey welfare.
The WDC programme runs in five villages and two townships, teaching people how to work with donkeys and how working animals can contribute to sustainable livelihoods. Many families in the area depend on donkeys for survival, using them to pull carts to market and collect firewood and water. But a lack of knowledge of how to care for them means that the majority of donkeys suffer harness wounds, infection, bit damage, exhaustion and dehydration.
FACE selects and trains Champions in their own communities to combat these issues and gives them the tools to treat basic wounds, infections, and parasites as well as educate owners about their donkey’s health and nutrition. Champions hold workshops for adults and children, teaching the next generation about the importance of donkey welfare.
They document and report cases of animal abuse and resolve them with local communities. Through these measures, WDCs have reached almost 200 people across nine villages and thousands of donkeys in the past six months alone.
Not only is the WDC programme benefitting the health and happiness of these donkeys, but also the people who depend on their animals for income. Donkeys are more reliable, affordable and sustainable for farming and transport than vehicles and allow people to farm land and build up food reserves. By teaching people how to work with donkeys and keep them healthy and strong, communities are already reaping the benefits of more productive farming and greater income – improving both humans’ and animals’ quality of life.
A year into this project and the change is already noticeable. At first, some owners were suspicious of the WDC programme and worried that their donkeys would be taken from them. But FACE realises that the only way to see permanent change is to work closely with communities to develop trust and close working relationships. More and more people are attending welfare workshops and bringing their animals to Working Donkey Champions for advice and basic veterinary care.
Already the programme is attracting young volunteers who help promote the work in their communities and classrooms, an encouraging sign that the next generation of owners are paying attention to the welfare message.