The booklet, based partly on former publications by donkey specialists, is meant to inform the user about all facets concerning donkey labour: characteristics and care of the the animal, training, harnessing, hitching and the different uses as pack- or traction-animal, including equipment for agricultural work and transport. Understanding is facilitated by numerous illustrations.
This research examines the use of animal traction and analyses the major constraints to its widespread use in Northern Ghana.
Findings suggest draft animals (bullocks and donkeys) are used to perform a wide set of activities ranging from land preparation, weeding, on-farm and off-farm transport, and the carting of goods and individuals in the three northern regions.
The study shows that with 12 acres per season and 4 years of work, draft animal users can break-even and cover their investment in animals and equipment.
Some of the factors constraining greater use of draft animals included an aging labor force; scarcity of “plowboys”, as the boys who traditionally do the plowing are attending schools; fast-wearing plowshares; poorly designed harnesses, yokes and implement beams; lack of raw materials and metal scraps for local fabrication of implements; limited dry season feed and water; and theft.
Any mechanization strategy should seek to address sustainably the constraints faced by animal traction users.
Animal traction: an innovation being institutionalized, but still fragile.
The central Africa
savanna zone counts 265 000 draft animals (40 % farms equipped in Chad, 25% in Cameroon and 10%
in Central African Republic). The two oxen working system dominates. In Cameroon, 30% of working
animals are donkeys. Cotton companies have largely contributed to promote animal traction for cotton
and food crops. Animal energy is especially used for plowing, secondarily for maintenance operations and
transports. It allows mastering weeds, contributes to water management in the field and to soil fertility by
animal manure. Animal energy allows increasing cultivated area per farm and income diversification.
Until now, because of poor knowledge and lack of financial means, producers meet difficulties to own a
harness and to take profit of it. A range of support services was generated via projects and development
companies. Today, with the withdrawal of States, new actors emerge in this "market" (veterinarians,
blacksmiths, credit, farm advice...). Some have difficulties to supply the needs of producers, to release
enough profitability and are asking for support. Previously, the issues for research were technical. Today, it
is necessary to understand the institutional reconstruction, the evolution of needs, to support innovation
and to strengthen cooperation process between new actors.