Report of the FAO - The Brooke Expert Meeting FAO Headquarters, Rome
13th – 17th June 2011
The role, impact and welfare of working (traction and transport) animals
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.
Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala very in size, in human population numbers
and in human population densities. Similarly they vary in the numbers of domestic animals. Cattle are
by far the most important species that produce meat and milk. Equines, especially horses are important
as transport animals. The contribution of livestock and their major edible products to the national
economies of all countries remains considerable in the range of 11 to 15 per cent. No data are available
on the value added to the economy by animals through providing energy for crop production and
transport of goods and people and it appears that this contribution is not included in any official
accounting system. Research on improving the output and contribution of work oxen to agriculture and
the economy as a whole has been limited and spasmodic. Most purported research on equines has been
related to welfare considerations including improved health and better systems of foot care and
harnessing. A small number of network operations support the use of oxen mainly for energy (draught
power) supply. Many international charitable foundations provide finance and expertise for improving
the welfare of horses (as well as donkeys and mules) but these are generally small scale and of limited
temporal duration. Oxen are use mainly to provide on-farm draught power but also are important in rural
transport operations. Horses supply services in both suburban and urban areas as riding animals, in
carriage work and to a more limited extent in providing other power applications.
Key words: work oxen, horses, animal welfare, animal nutrition, equine diseases.
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.