My name is Johnson Lyimo and I am the president of Meru Animal Welfare Organisation (MAWO) in Tanzania. MAWO receives funding from The Donkey Sanctuary for our community partnership work, which aims to bring about improvements in welfare for working donkeys.
Thousands of working animals have to stride out mile after mile, hour after hour, day after day, to support Tanzanian families living in poverty. Some communities believe they have no life without a donkey, but sadly not everybody understands this.
On a recent visit to a rural community, we met a woman named Mama Ester and her story highlighted how crucial a donkey can be to a family. She told us: “Since my husband passed away 23 years ago, this donkey has changed my life.”
Mama Ester explained how important donkeys are for human life in rural economies. “When my husband passed away he left me with a great challenge to build a house, pay school fees for all four of our kids and to look after and feed them. Honestly, I thank God for giving me a wonderful kind animal – my donkey. I use it for many jobs on the farm, domestic and business; I use to transport our maize and beans from home to the market; and I also I use my donkey to do domestic work such as fetching water and fire wood and carrying goods I have bought from our small town. All material to build this house was carried by donkey from the beginning of building until the house was finished! I can’t tell you how much the donkey helps to make my day-to-day life easy and affordable.”
Mama Ester also described another story in which the donkey helped to save her neighbour’s life – “One big thing I can’t forget was when my neighbour was sick in the middle of the night. We had no bicycle or motorcycle to take him to the hospital, but by using the donkey cart we managed to reach the dispensary early and to save the life of my neighbour.”
Through meeting Mama Ester, I was reminded about how much a donkey can do – to help pay school fees, build a nice house and to be a part of the family by assisting with the domestic work – not to mention help save someone’s life. Our community work helps people like Mama Ester ensure they are looking after their donkey properly and giving it the care it requires. I remember the last thing Mama Ester said as we were leaving: “Without a donkey, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”
By helping a donkey from a poor community, you help both the community and the donkey itself, because working animals are a lifeline for a billion of the world’s poorest people. Helping animals helps people too and I believe every working animal deserves to be treated with humanity and kindness. We’re working towards a day when animal suffering will cease to exist.
For more information about MAWO and the work they do with donkeys, please visit the Meru Animal Welfare Organisation website.