Donkeys are relied upon for load-bearing work and transportation by communities around the world, and this World Food Day 2018 we are highlighting the importance of donkeys and the vital role they play in helping families put food on the table.

The day of action, taking place on 16 October, brings people together to declare their commitment to tackle global hunger with the hashtag #zerohunger – and The Donkey Sanctuary believes that improved donkey welfare is an important piece of the puzzle.

Take the donkeys in Namibia playing a vital role in the scorching deserts, for example. Stella Goramus, who harvests nara fruits from the sparse sand dunes, couldn’t be without her donkeys.

To her community, the nara fruit is their lifeline; the fruit provides food and income for around 700 people living in Namibia’s Dorob and Namib-Naukluft national parks, and in recent generations donkeys have come to play a vital role in providing the freshly-picked produce.

“The only money I get is from harvesting naras,” says the unemployed mother of twin boys. “Donkeys are our right hand. My two donkeys are my only transport, if I didn’t have donkeys I would have to carry everything myself. Ultimately, they are our diamonds, our pets.”

Erwin Naweb and Stell Goramus collect naras with donkeys Ella and Lala with a nara bush in the background
Jarren Gorumub with one of the twins in a cart drawn by donkeys Ella and Lala
Stella Goramus with her twins who rely on nara fruits

Donkeys’ ability to transport goods increases the potential for wider access to quality nutrition in many communities through local food markets, and our research shows that 100% of the income of Mexican farmers who sell milk and crops, depend on the presence of working animals.

Thanks to your support we are funding work in Bethlehem which is not only improving the welfare of donkeys, but having a knock-on effect for their owners. For West Bank farmer Mahmoud, his donkey Hamar-hamar – literally translated as Donkey-donkey – is central to his ability to provide for his family and local community.

The land that he ploughs in a small pocket of dramatic, rugged terrain to grow produce to sell is inaccessible by car, but when his donkey became sick and unable to work, our partners on the ground were there with treatment and advice.


Ethiopia’s Merkato Market is the largest of its kind in Africa and one of the busiest sections is the grain market. Donkeys ferry sacks of Teff to the market, often carrying more than 100 kg at a time. Teff is used to make injera, the main food eaten in Ethiopia, yet too often the donkeys’ welfare needs are overlooked with ropes rubbing raw wounds.

The Donkey Sanctuary’s clinic at the market sees over 100 donkeys every day, treating back wounds, hyena bites, lameness and injuries from road traffic collisions.

We believe that simple interventions can transform not only the lives of working donkeys and mules, but the people who depend on them, not just for work but to supply food.

Donkeys stood at Merkato Market in Ethiopia
Donkey stood in Merkato Market in Ethiopia
Man loading a donkey in Merkato market in Ethiopia

Measures to reduce poverty and end hunger will be more effective if we improve the welfare of working equines.

So on World Food Day, thank you for your continued support of our work to transform the lives of donkeys and mules where they are free from suffering and their contribution to humanity is fully valued.

To find out more about our advocacy work associated to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, visit our advocacy and policy page.


Help us support more donkeys in need