AHMEDABAD PROJECT

Ahmedabad project was started in year 2003 by renting a plot at Village Chharodi which was converted into a farm clinic cum shelter for donkeys. We operate mobile clinic that provides health care, trainings, education and community development activities at donkey working sites within the city limits, villages and in brick kilns. We work in around 35 city sites, 80 brick kilns (so far we have worked in 184 brick kilns in the past five years) and 12 villages.

ACTIVITIES/ INITIATIVES
  • Training of competent donkey owners on basic care and management to become Community based Animal Health Worker and use of medical kit box (medicines) to provide first aid and treat common health problems. (Level-1)
  • Providing advance training (Level-2) to competent level-1 trainees. This training included basic farriery, temperature taking, giving i/m injection (vaccines) etc. Providing advance kit to the level -2 trainees.
  • Identifying local service providers (Government Vets / Paravets/ Pharmacies) and linking them with the donkey owners.
  • Implemented the harness initiative in brick kilns (providing modified back protectors on sharing basis to the donkey owners) to reduce the harness related welfare issues i.e. harness wound, spinal pain, fleece wound. Training the donkey owners on making proper back protectors.
  • Liaison with the government veterinarians and Para vets.
  • Liaison with other NGOs and providing training to their staff.
  • Vaccination programme (Tetanus and Rabies) on cost sharing basis as a preventive measure and to spread awareness among the community about these fatal diseases. The idea is to slowly introduce vaccination as part of the management practices to the equine owning community
  • Welfare assessment (animal based measures) of the donkeys at all the sites we visit and rank them based on the welfare status of the donkeys (as described in CRD).
  • Depending on the welfare and need assessment we do the issue oriented (feeding, wounds, lameness etc.) discussion with the community.
  • Implemented the competence based training for the Donkey welfare assistants and continuously monitored and assessed them over a period of time to help improve their competencies. DWA assessment report has been sent.
  • Farm clinic / shelter: Operate farm clinic / shelter to take care of sick and injured donkeys
  • Training centre: This farm clinic serves as training centre for capacity building of donkey owners, CAHW’s and Vets of partner organisations both national and international.
  • Fostering Scheme: some of the abandoned donkeys that get better after treatment and become work fit are given to deserving donkey owners under fostering scheme.

Major welfare problems seen in working equines as per “HAND”:

Communication: Even though donkeys are an important source of livelihood for the donkey owning community we often see misuse and abuse of donkeys due to poor communication / interaction between the owners and donkeys. Poverty and low status of the donkey owners among the society, lack of knowledge on donkey’s natural behavior and care / management add to the misery. Overloading, tethering and hobbling using plastic strings during work and working sick and lame donkeys is common due to lack of empathy among the owners.

BCS: Poor body condition due to malnutrition (socio-economic challenges leading to inability to provide adequate feeding regimen), lack of grazing, over working and limited rest during the brick kiln season is common. In some places worm load and poor feeding contribute to the poor BCS.

Wounds: Harness related wounds are seen in donkeys especially during the brick kiln season due to use of poor harness materials, ill-fitting harness, uneven balancing and poor maintenance of harness. Non-harness related wounds due to beating, accidents, bite wounds due to fighting among donkeys and sometimes cruel human inflicted cut wounds due to trespassing on private property.

Lameness: Lameness is a major welfare problem seen due to over loading, imbalance loading, working on uneven terrains in brick kilns, poor hoof care, hoof abscess due to thorns and sharp foreign objects and road accidents.

Other injuries and Diseases: Injuries and diseases are common in working equines due to nature of work and existing management system. Lack of proper veterinary health delivery system both in the government and private sectors, even if present in some places lack of knowledge on donkey medicine and correct treatment protocol among the local vet service providers adds to the severity of this welfare issues. Rabies and tetanus are the other welfare issue seen due to poor preventive measures (vaccinations) for their animals among donkey owning community.

DONKEY WELFARE VARIATIONS IN DIFFERENT COMMUNITIES

In Ahmedabad we have 3 major communities based on the nature of work and location:

Brick kiln community (OUD / VANJARAS): Most of the severe welfare problems are seen in donkeys that are used in brick kilns. Majority of donkeys are used as pack animals often overloaded and overworked. The team works more intensively with an integrated approach in these areas. Socio-economic factors play a major role in the welfare issue, so it is far more complicated issue to address. The donkey owners live a very basic life with limited resources and infrastructure often in tough situations during the season which lasts for 6-7 months (November to June).

City sites: Donkeys here are used mainly for carrying load in construction sites and for domestic transport of goods within the old city and these donkeys generally have moderately poor welfare. In these regions we work semi-intensively to address specific problems which are due to lack of services or knowledge to help improve donkey welfare.

Villages: The donkeys living in villages have a fair welfare status. The donkeys are worked when needed (Potters communities like Khumars or prajapatis ) and rest of the time the donkeys are left grazing and hence better BCS and welfare status. The donkeys that work in the brick kiln during season return to villages and get better as days progress. Our interventions are largely to train local community members and LSP’s on any particular issue identified as the problem.

FACTORS AFFECTING DONKEY WELFARE WHICH ARE BEYOND OUR CONTROL

  • Disease outbreaks and lack of proper disease surveillance system in the government for the working equines.
  • Poor veterinary health delivery system and lack of interest among the Government and private vets to help the needy donkeys due to the remote location of sites and brick kilns.
  • Faulty medication for diseases and injuries and diseases and old traditional systems like firing and cutting ears / nostrils for tetanus cases etc
  • Lack of leadership, interest and cooperation among the donkey owners to get involved in improving the welfare issues due to socio-economic challenges and peer pressure from the personal / family problems.
  • The cost of veterinary drugs and services and indeed their availability is still an impediment in achieving primary health care for donkeys
  • Unseasonal rains during brick kiln season often affect the livelihood of communities (lack of bricks to make income, early closure, unable to repay the debt) which has an indirect influence on the welfare of donkeys.

Area of operations (Ahmedabad, Gandhi Nagar, Mehsana, Patan) in Gujarat

Impact of Community work

COMMUNICATION / BEHAVIOUR: We have managed to reduce overloading and beating in most of the brick kilns by engaging with the community to critically think and analyze the issues which have led to change their minds / behaviour and has helped improve communication between owners and donkeys. We could observe the human-donkey interaction / relationship improving in the brick kilns we are working and some positive models are identified.We managed to slow the rate of welfare decline over the season in some of the brick kilns.

BODY CONDITION SCORE: The team worked intensively to achieve an ideal BCS of 2.5 for the working donkeys. We implement an approach that involves deworming (showing evidence of worm load) and improve the feeding regimen (advising on better feeding practices and through thought provoking sessions on proper feeding / balanced nutrition) to improve the body condition. We have seen some improvement in BCS in most of the working sites but not achieved it in all the sites we visit but are focussed to work towards it for the next year.

WOUNDS: Harness initiative (Providing improved back protectors made of skin friendly materialon cost sharing basis) and training donkey owners on wound management including discussions on proper maintenance of harness and promoting use of local resources like turmeric and buying ointments from Medical kit box has considerably reduced the wounds in the brick kilns.


OTHE `R SIGNS OF INJURIES / DISEASES: Creating awareness among the owners about rabies (stressing its spread and prevention) and tetanus and promoting to get their donkeys vaccinated on cost sharing basis has shown positive results in reducing the incidence of Rabies and Tetanus. This is evident from our records that more donkeys (1226 donkeys in 2015) are being vaccinated by owners than earlier when the vaccinations were provided free.To address the issue and raise awareness on accident problems, billboards were erected on the accident prone roads at Ahmedabad by partnering with advertising agency-Chitra Publications Private Limited who provided the space free of cost.

EQUINE FAIRS: Working closely with the Vautha Donkey fair organisers, we have managed to improve the infrastructure and facilities considerably (ramp for loading / unloading donkeys, feed and water availability, dead animal disposal etc) which are providing excellent results, benefitting the donkeys tremendously and we could observe the impact in the welfare of donkeys. Our work is recognised is evident from the support we receive from the local villagers, visitors, media and fair organisers.

AWARENESS: Newspaper articles helped in creating much needed awareness on the usefulness of donkeys (DAT) and the work of DSI among the society. Participation in World Animal Day campaign also helped in highlighting donkeys and the work carried by DS for the welfare of donkeys.

Deworming (in relation to BCS), vaccinations (Rabies and Tetanus) are more in number in accordance to our strategy of preventative measures and making donkey owners self-reliant on their donkey care and management. We have observed drastic reduction in the number of rabies and tetanus cases due to intensive vaccination program. In 2015 only one case of Tetanus and four case of Rabies was reported.

IMPACT

The drastic reduction in the number of wound cases reported is mainly due to the intensive training on wound management given to the donkey owners, promoting preventive measures and encouraging use of local herbal medicines. The donkey owners are managing the wounds themselves or taking the help of the CAHW’s and even buying medicines directly from Medical Kit Box and pharmacies with our telephonic guidance. The figures also shows that harness related wounds are less when compared to other non-harness related wounds. This is particularly very evident in Ahmedabad where provision of back protectors on sharing basis initiative has proved very useful and successful.

The number of cases of lameness has also reduced from our direct treatment numbers. Reduced numbers is because of the regular training on hoof care and awareness among the owners on management of lameness. Nowadays the donkeys are used on rotation basis and some donkey owners provide rest to lame donkeys based on our advice. Many minor cases of lameness have been treated by the CAHWs successfully thus providing immediate relief from the suffering and encouraging the people for regular hoof cleaning to reduce further incidence.

The other incidence like Euthanasia due to road traffic accidents, trypanosomiasisetc requires our direct / immediate interventions. Every cases attended by us was used as an opportunity to discuss with the owners about the causes, management and prevention. We also involve the LSP’s in our treatments. Wounds and lame cases correspond to the training on wound management and hoof care given to the donkey owners.