This week’s blog is an update from Johnson Lyimo, president of MAWO (Meru Animal Welfare Organisation) in Tanzania. MAWO receives funding from The Donkey Sanctuary for its community work to improve the lives of donkeys. This includes harness training to help communities produce their own donkey-friendly harnesses, as Johnson explains:
There is a saying in Emboret, one of the areas where MAWO is working to improve the welfare of donkeys, that says: “Osikiria lang, engishui lang”, which means “Our donkey, our life”. When I heard it for the first time, I thought: This slogan, it says a lot about communities where donkeys are so vital to life.
In this area, the life of a donkey changes throughout the year. In the wet season they call it a “donkey holiday” – a time when most of the donkeys roam free and there is plenty of green grass everywhere. But in the dry season every donkey has an owner and works for the community. This is also when they receive less from their owners – barely time to eat, drink or rest.
But in Emboret, there is a Maasai woman working hard to improve the lives of the donkeys in her community. Her name is Nanginyi and she is the leader of Emboret Women’s Group. Nanginyi is happy to work with us on donkey welfare, especially training other women in the community. In Maasai areas, 95% of donkey users are women so Nanginyi is in a good position to talks to them when she meets them at a water station or in a market. She tells me: ‘It’s easy to talk with the women when they are waiting in a water queue as we have more time there. I use this time to show them how my donkey has no wounds as am using a quality harness I made myself with local material.
When a donkey is found in our village with wounds, they bring it to my house for help. I normally send them to the local vet but most of these wounds are due to poor harness so I also give them training in making quality harness. Some of my neighbours used to borrow my harness but nowadays, since I have trained them to make them themselves, everyone now has their own in my area.’
When we talked to the village leader, he told us: ‘These women are very motivated. They’re interested in making lives better for their donkey – donkeys are everything to them. We need to join them and support them so now, when I hold a village meeting, I normally give the group leader an opportunity to say something about donkeys.’
Previously they only talked about other animals such as cattle during village meetings, usually to discuss disease – for example informing each other when it is the month for anthrax vaccination and so on. Including donkey welfare on the agenda is a big and important step and it is all thanks to the Emboret Women’s Group. As the saying goes, ‘our donkey, our lives’ – and so we will keep helping each other for the sake of donkeys.