Donkeys and mules are extensively used, particularly in the rural socioeconomics. Amhara region is a home for about 2 million donkeys, 124 thousand mules and 300 thousand horses (CSA, 2008/9). There are about 11 donkeys per square kmof Amhara land. There is one donkey for every two households in the community. This ratio is much higher in the rural community, three donkeys per every five household. Despite technological advancement in transportation industry, equines, donkeys in particular remain the backbone of rural transportation in the region. Donkeys are mainly used for transportation of farm products from farmstead to home, to and from market, grain to and from grinding mill houses, fire wood and charcoal for household use or sale, stone and blocks for construction, water for manual-irrigation like growing cash crops including chat, fertilizers, seedlings, aid-supplies, for ploughing and as cash income for the family. Mules in the urban settings are used for carting with horses. Cart mules are common in Bahir Dar city. The livelihood of more than 500 households in Bahir Dar town entirely depends on cart mules. Otherwise, horses and mules are kept as saddle, particularly in rural areas. Horses are also used for ploughing in some areas.Donkeys start working at the age of one year. There is no training for donkeys to start working while horses and mules are provided limited traditional training.
How the Donkey Sanctuary started in Amhara Region
While operating under the Addis Ababa University, School of Veterinary Medicine in Oromia region, the charity realized that the service under the school was not covering much of the national demand of addressing donkey welfare problems. With the good will of the founder and the then executive of the Charity - Dr Svendsen, it was possible to launch satellite projects in the northern territories of Ethiopia: Tigray and Amhara Regions. Preliminary survey was conducted to understand the plight of donkeys in the regions. Kieth Powel was employed directly by the charity head quarter in the UK to conduct the survey supervised by Dr Andrew Trawford for UK end and Professor Feseha Gebreab from Ethiopia. The results of the survey identified the health and welfare of donkeys including parasites, wounds, respiratory problems, hoof problems, ophthalmic as well as lack of awareness of the community using them.
Operating under Regional Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development
The Donkey Sanctuary UK, following the results and recommendation of the survey, signed a bilateral agreement with the regional Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development /BoARD/ to fund a project, quite in a similar fashion with the Debre Zeit based project, called the Amhara Donkey Health and Welfare Project. The immediate idea was to absorb resources used during the survey including skilled professionals and other resources such as the vehicles and equipment to continue providing services such as a mobile clinic. Since veterinary clinics had already started providing health care services to donkeys during the survey period, the new form of mobile clinic service could not easily drop them. It continued to operate in 11 districts located with a 100 km radius from the capital in 3 administrative zones of the region (Awi, West Gojjam and South Gondar). The objective was improving the health and welfare of donkeys/mules through direct provision of veterinary care and training of local animal health professionals. The mobile veterinary team was composed of a vet and an AHA, based in the regional capital, Bahir Dar.
Later in 2005, mainstreaming of the services through local government veterinary clinics was suggested. Three districts Enemay & Gozamin and Farta were selected to serve as pilot sites, partly to address the question of sustainability. The selection of the districts was based on the size of the underlying donkey population, the presence of veterinary personnel who received training by the Donkey Sanctuary team and the interest of the donkey owners. It involved training of the animal health professionals, equipping them with basic drugs and clinical equipment to enable them work. There was regular monitoring from the project team. The result of the pilot program demonstrated increased knowledge and skills in equine medicine and welfare, improved body condition, and cure from diseases, motivation of personnel, raised status of donkeys and awareness among donkey owners. The challenges, among others, were finding professionals with the expected ethics, reaching an acceptable quality of service and need of frequent supervision.
In general, the Donkey Health and Welfare Project in Amhara region, besides providing health care services, has raised awareness of owners on basic donkey/mule management supported by demonstration & distribution of pack saddles and building skill. The project also upgraded the skill and knowledge of government AHPs in equine clinical medicine. Working with satellite primary schools, it has introduced humane education in working animal welfare in school-aged children both in school and off-school. It targets grade 4 students, whose age ranges between 9 -12. The project has recently been evaluated.
Operating under Donkey Sanctuary Ethiopia
The Amhara project is the second project absorbed following SNNPR project under the Donkey Sanctuary Ethiopia. The Amhara project lasts for five years working with communities and promoting donkey/mule primary health care in project areas. It was officially launched January in 2011. The Donkey Sanctuary working worldwide, through its country office – Donkey Sanctuary Ethiopia - made a commitment with Regional Bureaus of Finance and Economic Development, Agriculture and Education to implement a project entitled “Community Based Integrated Health and Welfare Improvement Program in Bahir Dar and Bahir Dar Zuria districts. The intention is to devise a system that can be adopted for the region.