An estimated 112 million working horses, ponies, donkeys and mules are essential to the livelihoods of some of the poorest communities across the world. The socioeconomic value of these animals is often taken for granted and people may exploit their hardworking nature, leading to poor welfare. To address this lack of recognition of the critical and central role that working donkeys and mules play in rural communities, we are running a long-term and multifaceted research project to evidence and demonstrate their true value. Our research will provide first-hand evidence of the economic contributions that donkeys and mules make to rural communities, but also explore and evidence their cultural, social and religious values to the people who rely on them. We will use this evidence to highlight the critical and central role that working equids play in rural communities, with a view to improving local and international policy to protect their status and welfare.
We will use a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, including semi-structured interviews, livelihoods surveys, focus groups and welfare assessments. Data will be assessed using thematic analysis of interview data and statistical analysis of standardised data.
The project aims to address the following questions:
- Does improved donkey welfare impact levels of human development?
- How are donkeys perceived and valued in different contexts?
- How does donkey access or ownership impact on human development and wellbeing?
- What are the drivers of higher welfare for communities that employ working animals?