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Somaliland’s welfare: the good, the bad and the ugly

Almost everything about Hargeisa is unique and there is definitely an underlying beauty to the place. The local trees are flowering with a jasmine-like smell, the arid hills surrounding town change from orange to dusky pink through the day, weaver birds zip around the acacia trees making nests and there are smiling and friendly faces everywhere I look. Camels wander around the surrounding hills, enjoying the fresh leaves on the low bushes that dot the land. No gun-toting militants here; this is not Somalia, it is Somaliland.

Dr Ali, the executive director of SAWS, with a donkey at a market site in Hargeisa, Somaliland

Changing perspectives in Somaliland

It’s funny how things depend on your perspective and this week, perspectives are changing dramatically.

On your average world map, ‘Somalia’ is the nation shaped like a number 7 which forms the Horn of Africa. The rest of the world, however, hasn’t formally recognised this fledgling nation, its currency and its government, so it remains invisible on our maps.

A working donkey at the Duria slum in Hargeisa. One of the major roles of donkeys here is to transport barrels of water around the city in carts

A silver lining for Malawi's oft-forgotten donkeys

Malawi is known as the ‘warm heart of Africa’. With a largely agricultural economy, the vast majority of Malawians tend the soil as subsistence farmers and so the whole country depends on the kindness of the seasons for its staple crop, maize. Last year’s poor rains meant that harvests were down about 20% and this year, the rains ended early and abruptly. The best estimates are that current harvests will be down 30% from normal.

Donkeys awaiting treatment at LSPCA’s first-ever farm clinic in Kawale village, Malawi

The first steps for Malawi’s donkeys

Donkeys are relatively new additions to the beautiful Malawian landscape. Since the late 1950s, groups of donkeys were imported from a range of neighbouring countries in various programmes to address poverty. However the correct harnesses, carts and donkey-specific husbandry techniques were not also imported at the time. Malawi’s population of donkeys has grown to an estimated 15,000 which is mostly concentrated around the capital city.

Donkeys pull an ox cart with yokes that are badly suited for them

Helping Lamu's hidden donkeys

As anyone who has ever been to Lamu town will fondly remember, donkeys are the backbone of the economy here. Without motorised vehicles, pack donkeys are relied upon to move goods, suitcases, building materials and people around the timelessly beautiful town. The Donkey Sanctuary’s seafront clinic in the heart of the town has been helping donkeys and owners since it opened its doors nearly 30 years ago.

Donkeys are used to cart coral blocks from quarries to the port on Manda Maweni


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