A well-treated donkey is “a good companion” and “a big asset to combat poverty and hardship in poor communities”, according to local media in Cameroon – heartening words to hear in a country where promoting donkey welfare in the community is still in the early stages.
The message was spread by local animal welfare organisation the Foundation for Animal Welfare Cameroon (FAWCAM) at a press conference funded by the Donkey Sanctuary in June, which was held to raise awareness on donkey welfare issues.
The event was in Bamenda city, capital of Northwest, a region in the west of the country where farmers use donkeys to transport kola nuts, plantain, coffee, potatoes and other produce to market, reports the Cameroon Tribune. However, they are often overladen, underfed and beaten. Ill-fitting saddle packs result in wounds and other injuries.
Despite this grim backdrop, the newspaper says donkeys play “a frontline role in the happiness and survival of the human being [because] a healthier, long-living donkey is invaluable to its poverty-stricken owner."
Regional newspaper Bamenda Online echoed this message. Donkeys need to be treated with “love and respect,” the report said, quoting Director of FAWCAM Ben Fru Wara.
The goal is to “protect this very hard-working, kind and gentle animal from numerous abuses”, the article said.
Changing perceptions of donkey welfare in the communities where they live and work is a large part of our approach at The Donkey Sanctuary. Indeed, raising awareness of donkey welfare, not just for the sake of the donkey but for the families it works alongside, is a key step to making sure change is sustainable. That’s why it’s so encouraging to see FAWCAM’S message taken up by local newspapers, which can have a big influence on public opinion.
Change is in the air. At the press conference FAWCAM director Ben said the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal Husbandry has authorised them to draft legislation to protect domestic animals in Cameroon.
The Donkey Sanctuary has supported FAWCAM in Cameroon since 2010. One of the next tasks for FAWCAM is to do a survey of the number of donkeys and donkey owners in the two areas most populated by donkeys in the west so they can target those communities in particular. We will continue to support their important work and look forward to more good news reports.