Donkey-drawn carts are used in many areas of Ethiopia to transport vital goods such as firewood, water and building materials. All too often these carts are makeshift affairs, with shafts that lie heavily across the donkey’s back, causing painful chafing wounds.
Watch our amazing short film about our work with cart donkeys.
These carts are generally harnessed to the donkey with a loop around its neck, causing further wounds at the pressure points and increasing the strain on the donkey. Overloading and poor weight distribution exacerbate these problems.
As part of our work to introduce better carts with proper harness, we held a workshop in the town of Hawassa for local cart builders and donkey handlers. Working as a team with the artisans, we designed and built carts suitable for either one or two donkeys.
We also demonstrated the principles of good cart harness, with a proper breast collar, saddle and breeching, to pull, balance and stop the load. The group were shown how to make and fit harness for the different types of cart.
The new carts and sets of harness are now in use and are being monitored to see if they’ll find favour among local donkey drivers. But this may take time as our International Harness Consultant Chris Garrett says, “You can’t just walk in and change everything, you have to take it step by step, building up trust and confidence as you go, and working with the people who work with the donkeys as a team.
"We are now starting to see the positive impact of our work in this way.”