ATNESA Donkey workshop
Animal Traction Network for Eastern and Southern Africa
Improving donkey utilisation and management

Donkey power in perspective
Location, host, sponsors and participants
Methodology and participatory approach
Nutrition

Technology, harnessing and carts
Socio-economics, extension and training
 
Future actions
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Donkey power in perspective
Donkey power is an important resource whose efficiency of use can be improved. Power (animal, mechanical or human) is required for urban and rural development. In many countries, the donkey is the work animal which has the most to offer in assisting rural people and alleviating poverty. This is particularly true in the difficult circumstances of the arid and semi-arid tropics to which the donkey is naturally well-adapted. Several participants at the workshop reported that the use of donkeys has expanded quite rapidly in East, West and Southern Africa in recent years. This is seen in the growth of donkey populations in most African countries and also higher prices for donkeys. Paradoxically, donkeys are often associated with poverty and hard conditions, whereas they are often used to alleviate such poverty. They are often part of the solution, yet their image is with the problem itself.

While donkeys mainly transport goods and/or people, they assist men, women and children in many ways:
  • pack transport of numerous items including water, wood, grain, manure, forage, bricks and even weapons (donkeys helped win wars in Ethiopia)
  • cart transport for people or larger quantities of goods which cannot be handled by pack methods;
  • soil cultivation and weeding using single donkeys or teams of donkeys.

In several countries donkeys have survived drought years better than cattle. This, combined with the high cost of oxen and/or the effects of animal disease, has caused many farmers to turn to the donkey as an alternative power source. The adoption of donkeys has been mainly a result of farmer innovation and farmer-to-farmer technology transfer and has had little to do with the formal extension services.

The donkey is the work animal which has received least attention. In many instances, it has been totally ignored by extension services, scientists, planners and policy makers. There is little documentation on the present use of donkeys and associated benefits and constraints. Despite the increasing importance of donkeys in Africa, there is still no international research centre with a programme aimed at improving donkey performance and utilisation.
ATNESA and workshop objectives

The Animal Traction Network for Eastern and Southern Africa (ATNESA) aims to unite researchers, manufacturers, development workers, institutions and the users of animal traction in the region. More than 300 people from 35 countries have participated in previous ATNESA workshops, one of which concluded that a workshop was needed on �oving donkey management and utilisationԨe objective was to bring together regional specialists involved in research, development and extension relating to the utilisation of donkeys in order to exchange information, critically review donkey technologies, research and extension experiences, identify needs and make plans for action and collaboration.

Location, host, sponsors and participants
The workshop was held from 5-9 May 1997 at Debre Zeit, Ethiopia. The workshop committee included staff of the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), the University of Addis Ababa, the Ministry of Agriculture and several Ethiopian-based NGO development agencies. The core costs of the workshop were funded by the Directorate General for International Cooperation (DGIS) of the Netherlands

Participation was open to all involved in research, training, extension and welfare programmes relating to donkeys and who were prepared to produce a paper or poster illustrating their area of special interest and expertise. A total of 85 people from 23 countries were present at the workshop. These included 60 from ATNESA member countries with the rest coming from West and North Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas. Most participants were sponsored by their own organisations, by DGIS or by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA).

Methodology and participatory approach
Prior to the workshop, papers and abstracts had been circulated in a series of workshop readers. At the start of the workshop, participants mounted their posters, photographic displays and examples of harnessing systems, implements and carts. These were available for viewing and discussion throughout the week. The workshop methodology involved a combination of technical presentations, practical demonstrations, field visits and group discussions. Working in groups, participants were able to reflect on the key points of demonstrations and field visits and to share these with other groups in plenary sessions. Once major issues had been identified specialist groups were set up to examine these issues in greater detail and to report back with recommendations and proposals for future action. Participants commented on the workshop࣯ntent and organisation in an anonymous evaluation. 
The approach to promoting rural development has evolved over recent years from technology transfer with ready-made prescriptions to one of participation and respect for indigenous knowledge and practices. Farmers (women and men) and rural entrepreneurs (women and men) are now offered choices and options that often complement rather than replace their existing methods. The following summary of the workshopࡣtivities and outputs is presented with the participatory approach as its underlying philosophy.

Nutrition
The importance of nutrition in donkey management is paramount. Without good nutrition a donkey does not grow properly, it remains small and weak, it is susceptible to diseases and fails to reproduce. Even a small improvement in nutrition can have a considerable impact on the overall efficiency of the donkey as a power unit. Good nutrition results in rapid growth and a strong skeleton that is needed for a high work output. Good nutrition results in an effective immune system which enables the donkey to fight disease organisms, generally overcoming the disease challenge. Sound hooves, regular breeding and overall well-being are also clearly dependent on good nutrition. Unfortunately the benefits of good nutrition tend to be expressed over the medium term and are not so evident in the short-term as compared to for example, the effect of fertiliser on the growth of crops. It is important for researchers and extension workers to understand farmers帩sting practices and their logic. 

Farmers often know ways to improve the condition of their animals, but they are constrained by lack of resources. Working with farmers to identify affordable ways by which donkey nutrition can be improved is not easy. The technical options include feeding more food, feeding better quality food, using crop by-products, using concentrates, providing minerals and vitamins, ensuring adequate water and using feeding troughs to minimise waste. It may be useful to stimulate discussion amongst donkey users concerning these technical options to help identify affordable and acceptable practices that improve donkey nutrition.

Technology, harnessing and carts
The variety of technology options demonstrated at the workshop was wide. It ranged from the traditional harnessing and carts as used by Ethiopian donkey users through to new and novel plows and carts which used a combination of the old and the new in terms of design and harnessing. The challenge in improving both harness and implement technologies is to improve the efficiency of work output, which will at the same time improve welfare, in a way that is available, affordable and sustainable. This is a huge task for those involved in stimulating discussion on these issues with farmers and in presenting to them the new options. Undoubtedly farmers will only be convinced through observation and trial in their own conditions. Through such trials, farmers and artisans may well suggest modifications and become recognised as active partners in technology development processes. Many of the participants called for such long-term testing in field conditions of the harnessing and carts that were available for examination during the workshop. 

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Socio-economics, extension and training 
Many participants reported unhelpful and negative attitudes towards donkeys in their respective countries, including Ethiopia. However, economic research undertaken in Ethiopia and elsewhere has demonstrated that donkey transport not only reduces drudgery, it also makes major economic contributions to household incomes and to national production and economic development. This exemplifies the paradox encountered in many countries where donkeys make major contributions to people଩velihoods, yet they remain unacknowledged and unsupported. In these circumstances research or extension work involving donkeys is clearly not easy. Fortunately information and data are now accumulating, as through this workshop, so that more effective extension material can be produced in both the written and visual forms.
There is a need to influence national decision makers to create an enabling environment for donkey users and those working with them. Suggestions were made during the workshop as to how decision makers might be contacted and influenced in their thinking and attitudes concerning donkeys and donkey projects through appropriate lobbying activities. Attention was also given to so-called ⯣ess skills毲 promoting constructive interaction between individuals including how to listen to farmers, how to facilitate farmers and how to help farmers to help each other.

Future actions
The workshop generated much enthusiasm for further action. Most will be carried out at local level by workshop participants working with national networks and cooperating organisations. As a direct result of workshop exchanges and discussions, a wide variety of programmes of cooperation and collaboration will be developed between the many organisations and individuals who were represented at the workshop. Among the countries involved in such follow up proposals were Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, UK, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The special place of Ethiopia as a country with a long history of donkey use was stressed and it was proposed that a project be undertaken to record and report the indigenous knowledge of equid use in the country. The Ethiopian Network on Animal Traction (ENAT) will be strengthened and will develop a range of activities.

Although new information needs to be obtained, there is already much knowledge and experience relating to donkeys. This is sufficient to justify a new wave of publicity and training materials in the form of pamphlets, booklets, extension manuals and textbooks. The preparation of these documents within the region should be linked with the development of curricula on donkeys in schools, colleges and universities.

Modern technology has made the video film an effective medium for information dissemination. The videos shown during the workshop demonstrated this clearly. The participants would like to expand the range of titles and topics in this format.

In order to maintain the momentum generated at the workshop and to coordinate follow-up actions, it was agreed to set up three task forces on nutrition, tillage and technology and policy and socio-economic issues. These working and monitoring groups hope to attract support for relevant donkey programmes and activities from sympathetic sponsors. There was also a call for the appointment of an ATNESA harnessing adviser (or advisory group) to work with national networks and assist with harness demonstration and trials.
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Donkeys, people and development 
Click here
to see the contents of one of the ATNESA resource books developed after this workshop.

Donkeys and donkey technology
Click here
to see the contents of another ATNESA resource book developed after this workshop.

Improving donkey utilisation and management workshop report
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to download a detailed and illustrated report of this workshop. This 59-page document with photographs is in PDF format that can be printed or read on-line. 

(NB: this has a file size of 1.1Mb and may take several minutes to download).

If you do not have Adobe Acrobat 4 which is needed to view and print this pdf file, you can download it free of charge from http://www.adobe.com

 

Donkey Bibliography
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to download a bibliography prepared for this workshop which contains some 300 references relating to donkeys. This 34-page document is in PDF format that can be printed or read on-line. 

(NB: this has a file size of 667kb and may take several minutes to download).

If you do not have Adobe Acrobat 4 which is needed to view and print this pdf file, you can download it free of charge from http://www.adobe.com

 

Donkey utilisation and management in Ethiopia
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to download a paper by Feseha Gebreab, Alemu G Wold, Friew Kelemu Abule Ibro and Ketema Yilma prepared for this workshop. This 7-page document is in PDF format that can be printed or read on-line. 

(NB: this has a file size of 197kb and should not take very long to download).

If you do not have Adobe Acrobat 4 which is needed to view and print this pdf file, you can download it free of charge from http://www.adobe.com

 

Gender issues in donkey use in rural Ethiopia
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to download a paper by Kathy Marshall and Zahra Ali prepared for this workshop. This 7-page document is in PDF format that can be printed or read on-line. 

(NB: this has a file size of 275 kb and may take two minutes to download
depending on the speed of your connection).

 

The challenges in using donkeys for work in Africa
Click here to download a paper by R A Pearson, E Nengomasha and R C Krecek. This 9-page document is in PDF format that can be printed or read on-line. 

(NB: this has a file size of 180 kb and may take two minutes to download
depending on the speed of your connection).

Other documents about donkeys
Click here to see some
other articles about
donkeys 
including donkey milk


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