BENEFITS OF WORKING EQUINE ANIMALS ON WOMEN’S LIVES IGNORED, FINDS NEW REPORT
It has found that working donkeys, horses and mules provide crucial support for women in developing countries but are being overlooked in international gender and livestock policy. The report Invisible Helpers was published by global animal welfare organisation the Brooke, which is calling for greater recognition of the role of working equine animals.
An estimated two thirds of poor livestock keepers – approximately 400 million people – are women, and working equine animals have rarely been considered in livestock research. The study aims to fill this gap by reporting the perspectives of women from equine owning communities themselves on the impact these animals have on their lives. The report is based on discussions with focus groups and individuals in Ethiopia, Kenya, India and Pakistan.
It found that working equine animals help to lessen the burden on women’s lives, providing a ‘support system’. Over three quarters of the groups (77%), including all of those in Kenya and India, ranked donkeys, horses and mules as the most important of all their livestock. They generate income, help with household chores, give women an increased social status and, importantly, help women collect food and water for other livestock.
Animal power world-wide
Domestic work animals exist in all regions of the world. Animals assist in eliminating
poverty, reducing drudgery and creation of wealth. Animal traction is particularly important for food security in smallholder farming systems. Animals can assist directly with crop production (ploughing, planting, and weeding). Food production, distribution and rural trade
are also assisted through animal-powered transport (on-farm, marketing, riding, pack transport). Animals save household (women and children) time and effort by carrying water and fuel wood. Animal power can also be used for water-lifting, milling, logging and land excavation and road construction. Many different types of animal are employed, particularly cattle (oxen, bulls and cows), buffaloes, horses, mules, donkeys and camels.