In 2010 The Donkey Sanctuary agreed to help fund a project focusing on the Bui division of the north-western region of Cameroon. This is a poor rural area whose residents depend on donkeys and carts for transport. Badly-made carts with harness designed for oxen put too much strain on donkeys and cause wounds on their necks; heavy loads are also put on to donkeys' backs without proper pack saddles or padding, causing them to suffer acute back sores. There are no vets or animal protection groups in the area; Cameroon has no laws on animal welfare, and even the concept of a charity concerning itself with animals is new and strange.
The Foundation for Animal Welfare in Cameroon (FAWCAM) used a small grant from The Donkey Sanctuary to prepare and carry out several activities. These included veterinary treatments and a two-week course for donkey owners, motivating them to give their donkeys better care, and teaching them how to do this. The course also tackled the major problem of poor harness by inviting owners to join local groups ('nianai') which would help them procure and buy new harness. Nearly all the donkey owners were happy to take this opportunity.
These practical activities were backed up by various initiatives to promote animal welfare, including campaigns at public rallies, lectures at colleges, and the distribution of leaflets on animal welfare; there was also a regular radio feature on the same subject and plenty of coverage in the local press. FAWCAM worked closely with the local agriculture office throughout, building up a good relationship which has proved very helpful.
FAWCAM believes its activities have gone a long way to increase empathy with animals and make it less acceptable to overwork and ill-treat donkeys. The group plans to build upon this base, continuing to work with donkey-owning communities on sustainable projects such as harness improvement and education.