WORLD FOOD DAY 2020

By External Source
Oct 14 2020 (IPS-Partners)

The COVID-19 pandemic is threatening the food security and nutrition of millions of people around the world.

More than 820 million people were classified as chronically food insecure before the virus hit.

Unless immediate action is taken, we are facing an unprecedented global food emergency.

The food security of 135 million people was already categorised as crisis level or worse.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, that number could rise to 265 million by the end of the year.

The number of children under the age of five years who are stunted now stands at 144 million. That is more than one in five children worldwide.

As of late May, 368 million school children missed out on daily school meals on which they depend.
47 million kids are now classified as wasting, and these numbers will grow rapidly.

The pandemic could push about 49 million people into extreme poverty by the end of 2020.

But the economic repercussions of the virus are not the only factors giving rise to the global food crisis.

In many parts of the world, food security has been threatened by protracted conflict, recurrent droughts due to climate change, and rapid industrialization, as well as the worst locust infestation in decades.

On October 16, the annual celebration of World Food Day is calling for global solidarity to help recover from this crisis.

This year’s theme is: Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together.

It aims to make food systems more resilient to withstand global volatility and deliver affordable and sustainable diets for all.

It is more important than ever to ensure food makes its way to those in need even amidst the current COVID-19 crisis.

 


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Changing the Lives of Bangladesh’s Rural Girls by Giving them a Tertiary Education

Nila Kispotta (centre) poses for a photo with family members. Kispotta comes from a family of daily wage earners. Like many young, rural girls, pursuing a tertiary education would have been impossible without the financial support she receives from her school, the Moimuna Nursing Institute. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Farid Ahmed
THAKURGAON, Bangladesh , Oct 14 2020 – Nila Kispotta, a 19-year-old rural girl from the Oraon ethnic community, has become a figure of exceptional achievement to the small, poverty-stricken village in Thakurgaon in northwest Bangladesh that she grew up in. Born into a family of daily wage earners, Kispotta dreamt of a different life. So when she enrolled in tertiary education to pursue a diploma in Nursing Science and Midwifery — she achieved something her family and community hadn’t even dreamed was possible.

“Girl children are mostly bearing the brunt of poverty in our society, but I continued my fight against all odds. Only a little help can change the life of many girls,” Kispotta told IPS.

It would have been impossible for Kispotta to pursue a tertiary education without financial support.

But after matriculating from a Christian missionary school, she went to a local college for two years before enrolling in the Moimuna Nursing Institute in Thakurgaon, 460 kilometres away from capital Dhaka. It is a non-profit approved by the Bangladesh Council of Nursing and Midwifery, and offers a three-year diploma in nursing for Taka 110,000 or $1,500, which includes tuition fees, accommodation, uniforms and books.

According to the institute’s chair of the board of directors, Dr. Saifullah Syed, it was designed to ensure that rural girls are given an opportunity to receive an education, despite their financial backgrounds.

“We offer needs-based scholarship and we are creating a scholarship fund so that poor girls can receive support,” Syed told IPS, adding that scholarships were funded by voluntary contributions and that the fund was managed by a board of trustees. He added that individual donors could even directly support specific students.

“It is the lowest cost institute in the country, and the fees cover only the running cost of the courses and it has become difficult to run the courses as many poor students are enrolled here because of the scholarship facilities,” Syed told IPS.

Kispotta, who is in her first year, is grateful for the waiver of fees.

“Now it’s easy for me to continue the diploma in nursing at a private institute as the tuition fees have been waived,” she said. Kispotta added that upon completion of the diploma, she plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“She is our pride,” the elderly Gabriel Kispotta, a distant relative of Kispotta who lives in Thakurgaon, told IPS. “None of us have even passed high school,” he said, adding that around 15 Oraon families lived in the area.

Thakurgaon and its adjoining districts has a population of just over 1.2 million — of which one million live in rural areas — and a literacy rate of just under 42 percent.  

The institute, housed on its own campus, opened early this year with a first group of 20 underprivileged, students, mostly rural girls.

It houses modern labs, a library, a hostel and a large, lush green sports field overlooking the institute where students and faculty participate in athletics, football, handball and cricket. There is also a hospital onsite — the Moimuna Mata Shishu Hospital — that provides free healthcare services and free medicine to poverty-stricken villagers.

“It’s a specialised hospital for women and children, but we run like a general hospital as all kinds of patients come here as they get services almost free of cost,” Director of the Moimuna Mata Shishu Hospital, Dr. M.A. Momin, told IPS.

Momin, a retired civil surgeon from a government hospital who also teaches at the institute, said both the hospital and institute were staffed by capable medical staff who were able to effectively train the student nurses.

The institute’s curriculum offers a variety of courses that include; English, computer literacy, basic nursing, anatomy and physiology. The aim is to train students to a higher standard that would allow them to access further training in facilities in urban areas. 

“There is a huge shortage of qualified nurses in the country and we’re trying our best to produce quality nurses making opportunities for poor eligible students, especially for rural girls,” said the institute’s principal Lucy Biswas.

Students attend anatomy class at the Moimuna Nursing Institute. The first group of students comprises 20 underprivileged, rural students, mostly rural girls. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Students attend anatomy class at the Moimuna Nursing Institute. The first group of students comprises 20 underprivileged, rural students, mostly rural girls. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Most of Kispotta’s peers have a similar financial background.

Joya Rani, who enrolled at the institute from neighbouring Panchagar district, told IPS that she badly needed financial support as she had no way of funding her education.

“Getting a chance to study here without any cost is a watershed in my life… I’ve struggled all through my life and I don’t want to lose the fight,” she told IPS. “Certainly I’ll try to become a good nurse and find a job at a big hospital in the capital,” Rani said.

Another student, Sweety Akter, said before enrolling in the Moimuna Nursing Institute she had been able to earn a small amount of money working as a private tutor. The funds went to support her family. “Now it has stopped and sometimes it becomes difficult for me to manage the money for food at the hostel,” Akter told IPS.

Only a handful of students receive full financial support because of funding constraints, management says.

Biswas, who formerly headed a number of government nursing institutes before taking on the post at Moimuna Nursing Institute, told IPS: “Had there been no financial support, many of the students would have dropped out as they come from very poor families.”

Biswas said that even though tuition fees and hostel expenses were cheaper here than any other private nursing institutes in the country, it was still difficult for many of the rural girls to pay their education expenses as their families were locked in poverty and the struggle for daily survival.

“The students are so poor that they [could not afford] smart phones and internet charges at home for online classes during the coronavirus pandemic [lockdown],” Biswas explained. The country went into a nationwide lockdown at the end of March, partially easing some of these restrictions two months later, but continuing with a restriction on travel until early August.

“So they returned to the hostels to pursue their studies [while] maintaining social distancing.”

Train Faith Leaders to Tackle Africa’s Mental Health Needs

In countries like Malawi, there are simply not enough mental health professionals to go around. The local faith community can help fill this void.

In countries like Malawi, there are simply not enough mental health professionals to go around. The local faith community can help fill this void. Credit: Unsplash /Melanie Wasser.

By Chiwoza Bandawe
BLANTYRE, Malawi, Oct 14 2020 – The world is actually in the throes of two pandemics. The first is COVID-19. The second is the wave of stress and anxiety, depression and substance use it has unleashed around the world. Most mental health disorders are treatable.

This so called “second pandemic” is raging in poor and wealthy countries alike. But across Africa, and in much of the Global South, people facing mental health crises have nowhere to turn.

The reason is that governments and aid agencies are not making the investments needed to provide these services. In the lead up to “World Mental Health Day,” the World Federation for Mental Health recently released new statistics on the share of health budgets that nations and international donors devote to mental health.

Fear, and the loss of the livelihoods, loved ones, and companionship, that give life meaning and purpose, are leaving people bereft. The need for mental health counseling and care far exceeds what we are equipped to give. The question is what is to be done?

It is miniscule – between one and two percent – even though the WHO calculates that every US$ 1 invested in scaled-up treatment for common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety returns US$ 5 in improved health and productivity.

On the African continent, the consequences of underinvestment are especially glaring. Here, at least 90% of those with mental health problems are not getting the necessary treatment. My own country, Malawi, illustrates the chasm between what is needed and what we are able to provide. I am one of four registered clinical psychologists here and there are just three psychiatrists.

Malawi has a population of 18 million.

The consequences of untreated mental health problems are serious. According to the latest figures released for World Mental Health Day, one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide. And in Malawi, the police have just released new statistics showing suicides between January and August of this year have shot up by 57% compared with the same period last year.

Fear, and the loss of the livelihoods, loved ones, and companionship, that give life meaning and purpose, are leaving people bereft. The need for mental health counseling and care far exceeds what we are equipped to give. The question is what is to be done?

I believe the best, and perhaps only, viable option is to invest in the networks and social support systems that already help troubled people endure suffering and make sense of their lives.

In countries like mine, it is faith leaders that they turn to.

This safety net is already firmly in place. Here, and in many other parts of Africa, faith is woven into everything. Churches or mosques can be found in every village and often on every street corner. Public meetings begin with prayers.

When they encounter personal problems, including depression, anxiety or substance use, people ask faith leaders to help them cope. Faith can often offer strength and solace. Indeed, the link between faith and mental health is well established. Researchers have found correlations between religious faith, and hope, optimism, satisfaction, self-esteem, and a sense of meaning in life.

But bipolar disorder, clinical depression, and many other ailments require a level of care and intervention that faith leaders are not prepared to offer. Many tell me they are grappling with complex and frightening problems that worry them. One lamented, “all I can do is pray for them and I don’t know what else to do.”

Others perform exorcisms for mental illnesses, trying to get rid of the demons they believe are to blame. The idea that people with psychological or neurological disorders are possessed by demons stigmatizes them further. In these cases, faith traditions can deepen people’s suffering, force them to endure in secret, or be cast out of their communities, and denied access to treatments that could change or even save their lives.

Faith leaders are already on front lines in countries like mine and this is not about to change. So why not give them the tools to navigate this treacherous terrain? With basic mental health literacy they could learn to recognize, understand, manage, and even prevent mental health disorders. They would know the symptoms of anxiety, depression, or psychosis, the resources available, and where people can go for treatment.

Would African clerics, steeped in religious doctrine and faith, be amenable to this? Those who talk with me not only need, but want this knowledge. Elsewhere, programs like this are already proving effective. Studies show that faith leaders have welcomed and benefitted from this kind of training, and that it has influenced the kind of advice they give.

Mental health literacy training already empowers primary care providers to provide patients with the care, information, support, skills, and resources needed to face mental health challenges. Governments, aid agencies, and NGOs should create and fund these trainings. Umbrella religious councils and associations should work with them to ensure that the trainings are as useful, relevant, and widely accessible as possible.

The need is overwhelming. In countries like Malawi, there are simply not enough mental health professionals to go around. The local faith community can help fill this void. Armed with more knowledge, faith leaders can play a pivotal role in promoting global mental health and reaching those who desperately need mental health services. The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day, is “Mental Health for All: Greater Investment – Greater Access.”

We do need to invest much more, and training faith leaders in mental health literacy is one way we can do it now.

Chiwoza Bandawe is a clinical psychologist with the University of Malawi, College of Medicine. He has several publications in international journals and has published three mental health education books.

The Urban Poor are Fighting Back Against COVID-19

Maria 5, and Tendo, 4, have learnt the habit of regularly washing their hands whenever they arrive back home from playing with their friends, Kamwokya II Ward, Central Division, Kampala City, Uganda. April 2020. Credit: WaterAid/ James Kiyimba

By Mbaye Mbeguere
DAKAR, Senegal, Oct 14 2020 – For those who live in slums and informal settlements, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront their greatest vulnerabilities. But they are fighting back; organising, and coming up with creative ways to protect their communities.

Regular handwashing with soap and water is a first line of defence in protecting from deadly diseases, but in sub-Saharan Africa, 63 per cent of people in urban areas – that’s 258 million people – lack access to decent handwashing facilities.

Globally, there are 3 billion people who do not have access to soap and water to wash their hands at home.

Other preventative measures employed by governments such as lockdowns and curfews are equally implausible for those living in slums and informal settlements.

It’s often so crowded that there is often no space for physical distancing, especially for those who need to leave their homes to collect water or use communal toilets.

When businesses are informal and your economy functions on a day-to-day basis, advice to work from home, or close your business is unworkable. In many places informal markets have been cleared and people evicted in response to COVID-19, ignoring the rights of the urban poor and the role they play in the rest of the city.

Despite all these barriers, those living in informal settlements are organising to fight back against COVID-19.

Some of the most inspiring responses to the pandemic we are seeing have been led by residents of informal settlements. They are installing handwashing stations, producing maps and situation reports, and even highlighting isolation areas.

We must learn from, and scale up, these community-led activities, and empower people to protect themselves.

At WaterAid, supported by partners such as H&M Foundation, we have been working with groups within informal settlement in their work to bring handwashing facilities, clean water and decent toilets to everyone in their community.

Credit: WaterAid/ James Kiyimba

In Kamwokya II, in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, which is home to more than 6,000 people in less than half a square kilometre of land, Christopher Tumwine leads a community action group called ‘Weyonje’ (clean yourself’), supported by WaterAid and the Kampala Capital City Authority.

For Chris, clean water, good hygiene and decent toilets are always front of mind. Weyonje goes house to house talking to people about how to use toilets properly and dispose of the waste safely.

Worried that advice and programmes aimed to protect the population against COVID-19 are leaving informal settlements behind, they are now also teaching people about the importance of hygiene and handwashing.

To create long term change, Chris needs the support of government, business and his neighbours, and in recent years, he has spent his time campaigning for a sustainable solution to protect his community’s health, safety and dignity from overflowing sewers, filthy water and disease.

Chris said: “Our settlement is densely populated, and houses are near each other. Social distancing is a myth in the slums, it is something designed for people living in affluent places of the city. We have shared toilets, bathrooms and public water taps, and our children always get out of the houses to play with other kids in the neighbourhood. We are just lucky that Coronavirus has not reached the slum.”

Chris believes community groups like Weyonje are crucial to stopping the spread of diseases such as COVID-19 in the area:

“In Kamwokya, we have created a Weyonje WhatsApp group during the lockdown where group members share information on how best we can help the community. This is a good platform that we can use to counter misinformation about COVID-19 that is circulating on social media. Using megaphones, we carry out house to house community education; teaching the community residents that proper and regular handwashing with water and soap is a defence against the spread of coronavirus.”

As many in the community don’t have a water source close to home, they create makeshift handwashing stations, filling a plastic bottle with soap and water and tying it to their front door with string, so they can wash their hands before entering their homes.

Across the world there are groups and organisations just like Weyonje, working tirelessly to protect their communities from the spread of illness and convince the public and government alike that clean water and decent toilets must be a priority.

In Kenya, for example, Muungano wa Wanavijiji – which means ‘united slum dwellers’ – are using their knowledge of the country’s informal settlement to help track cases of COVID-19 and communicate government messages about preventing the spread of the disease to those who are the most vulnerable.

In 2019, and before the Covid-19 pandemic started, WaterAid followed Weyonje and its leader Chris to film their work and witness an exciting moment for Kamwokya. Watch the film, supported by H&M Foundation, to see what the team achieved here.

*WaterAid and H&M Foundation are working with communities, governments and partners, to create long lasting change, and bring clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene to communities around the world.

 


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Improving People’s Lives with Digital Technology during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic saw 3.5 billion people without access to digital technology and services and more than one billion children unable to continue their education. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

The COVID-19 pandemic saw 3.5 billion people without access to digital technology and services and more than one billion children unable to continue their education. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

By Samira Sadeque
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 14 2020 – Digital technology has been crucial in ensuring community and connection during the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. And its shown that collaboration between the private and public sector can ensure that digital technology continues to advance in a way that improves people’s lives under crises, experts said on Tuesday, Oct. 13. 

The COVID-19 pandemic saw 3.5 billion people without access to digital services and more than one billion children unable to continue their education, Dr. Julia Glidden, corporate vice president at Microsoft Worldwide Public Sector, said at the webinar.

“As digital services became lifelines, empowering responders, [the] crisis also highlighted the need for greater connectivity,” she said.

Speakers from Denmark, South Korea, China and Bangladesh were among those who shared their insights at the webinar “Accelerating Digital Transformation for Sustainable and Resilient Recovery from COVID-19”. It was organised by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), Division for Public Institutions and Digital Government (DPIDG), and the Ministry of the Interior and Safety (MOIS) of South Korea.

The webinar focused largely on the importance of bringing together public and private sector partnerships and highlighted the need for civic engagement.

Particularly outspoken on this issue was Kyong-yul Lee, Secretary-General of the World Smart Sustainable Cities Organisation (WeGO), an international association of cities, and local and national governments.

Echoing the thoughts of other speakers about the importance of collaboration of public and private institutions, Lee added the importance of including citizens in the equations.

“If civic participation is active, PPP (referring to public-private partnership) becomes PPPP —  public private people participation,” he said. “Citizens are not simple participants but active data collectors and problem solvers.”

In order to make sure these measures are effective, there is also the need for a change in mindset, Lee said.

“City officials should change their minds – they are not the owner of the city, and city administrators should be open minded and kept abreast of the times,” Lee added. “As it was the technology that changed the stone change, it’s technology that [will] usher in the smart age, so cities should awaken to it and invest in it for the future.” 

In some places, such as the digital technology landscape in Bangladesh, a change in mindset is already happening, according to Anir Chowdhury, policy advisor of the Aspire to Innovate (a2i) Programme under the ICT division in Bangladesh.

Chowdhury said amid the COVID-19 outbreak, officials in the government have adopted measures that are helping accelerate their work, with many “major decisions” taking place via Whatsapp.

This means they are able to hold high-level meetings on 12-16 hours notice.

“This has really given a radical change in mindset that leapfrogging is possible and we can eliminate a lot of steps in our bureaucracy,” Chowdhury said. “A lot of things that were thought to be impossible are now possible.”

Xufeng Zhu, Professor and Associate Dean at the School of Public Policy and Management in China’s Tsinghua University, discussed the digital technology measures the Chinese government used to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chinese government was able to use the internet for processes such as online diagnoses and the release of information , among other services. The latter was helpful in aiding government authorities to curb the spread of misinformation spread.

Digital technology was also crucial for delivery services during the lockdown, and the delivery system fixing the blind spots in the cities, Zhu said.

Tech companies also have a big role to play, he added.

It was noted that while the alliance between governments and tech companies is important to note, the citizens have a crucial role to play in ensuring that these measures are effective.

“Citizens must play a more active role and participate in helping create smart cities,” said Lee of WeGO. “Citizens should change their mind too, they shouldn’t be passive bystanders, they are real owners of the city and they are asked to actively create the ideal smart city. A sense of ownership is critical and civil participation makes a big difference.”

Glidden offered a call to action.

“In the face of unprecedented global challenges, there’s also opportunities,” Glidden said. “I believe the need to catalyse collaborative partnerships and innovation of a global level has never been greater.”

She said a model that involves a vibrant mix of small and mid-size enterprises, and the public and private sector would be the ideal model to addresses “challenges of access and inclusion, which COVID-19 so dramatically showcased”.

She called for a model that “ultimately shows digital is a force for social good rather than disruption and division”.

Phytosciences Ghana Announces Appointment of John Gamble as Advisor to Better Serve Ghana’s Cannabis Industry

ACCRA, Ghana, Oct. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Phytosciences Ghana Consultants Limited, a consulting firm providing scientific guidance to government and private sectors, announced today the appointment of John Gamble as an Advisor to the company.

John Gamble is a smart energy consultant and CEO of EnerDynamic Hybrid Technologies, a sustainable energy solutions company. John Gamble has over 35 years' experience offering manufacturing, development, and structural business system consulting services. For the past 15 years he has worked in the renewable energy sector, designing solar installations and smart energy solutions. In partnership with the Government of Ghana and the Ministry of Works and Housing and EnerDynamic's JV partner in Ghana Unified Construction they are currently working in the Dawa area to build 100,000 homes in Ghana.

"We are pleased to welcome John into the PhytoSciences family," said Dr. Pritesh Kumar, the Managing Director of Phytosciences GmBH. "As Phytosciences continues its expansion into Ghana, we want to ensure we are establishing a safe, ethical, and sustainable industry. He has significant experience working in Ghana and will bring a local perspective to the table. His vast expertise will support the development of the consultancy in this region."

“I am looking forward to serving as an advisor and providing business development guidance to a company that is providing beneficial cannabis expertise to Ghana,” said John Gamble, CEO of EnerDynamic Hybrid Technologies.

Phytosciences Ghana Solutions limited is a branch of PhytoSciences Consultants GmBH, a global consulting firm with a vast resource base of proprietary knowledge, methodologies, and experience. They provide clients access to an international network of scientists and subject matter experts. PhytoSciences Ghana also offers access to their global knowledge management system, a proprietary network that provides start–up cannabis companies and regulators strategic support in developing, strategizing, and executing commercial and policy objectives. PhytoSciences Ghana is helping develop a viable framework for legislative change and offers tailored solutions to local companies so they can strategically maneuver the market as it emerges.

To learn more about PhytoSciences Ghana, visit the website at pghsolutions.com, office@pghsolutions.com.

PR Contact
Kathleen Gonzales
kathleen@elevated–pr.com
Elevated Public Relations

Working Animals’ Role in SDGs and Addressing Climate Change, Pandemic Crises

It is time to recognise the role of working animals in livelihood systems, addressing climate change and human health: it has been overlooked for too long.

Coconut farmers in Mafia Island, Tanzania, rely solely on donkeys as the mode of transporting their products from farms to markets. Credit: Alexander Makotta/IPS

By Mike Baker and Roly Owners
NEW YORK, Oct 14 2020 – As we prepare to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the  Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), it is time to recognise the role of working animals in livelihood systems, addressing climate change and in human health, which has been overlooked for too long. The Working Animal Alliance seeks to change this. 

As we seek cost-effective and innovative solutions to help achieve the SDG’s, we would do well to recognise that working horses, donkeys and mules have been instrumental in the development and maintenance of civilization for millennia.

While they may be considered ‘old technology’ by some, they remain a versatile green power source. Not many people know that more than 100 million working animals continue to sustain the livelihoods of more than 600 million people, many of them at most risk of being left behind.  

Environmentally-conscious forestry already uses working animals in logging as their impact on sensitive woodland is much lighter than mechanised machinery.  Working animals are able to take the most direct route to a destination so there is little need to build new roads

For communities where motorised transport is either unavailable, unaffordable or impractical, working animals can be the difference between life and death.  They enable people to fulfil their basic needs, providing access to water, food, firewood and medical care.  They can also alleviate poverty, as they enable people to generate an income. 

For instance, from Cambodia to Romania, horses are used as draught power to plough fields. In Central America, they are integral to rural and urban economies, pulling carts full of goods to and from market or used in refuse collection to keep city spaces hygienic.

In Colombia, they carry coffee beans from plantations and across Africa, horses, donkeys and mules carry food for other livestock as well as serving as taxis, people carriers and moving vans. Working animals are used to transport medical tests in Lesotho, children to school in Honduras and water to villages in Mexico. They allow people to participate in community saving schemes in Ethiopia, and provide families with the income to pay for their children’s education.  

In fact, these roles are undertaken by working animals across all continents, to some degree, yet their relevance to livelihoods has been largely invisible to policy makers and governments. Development organisations and institutions such as FAO acknowledge the importance of livestock such as cattle, goats and pigs to food security, but the working animals which help supply their feed and water – and support the lives of livestock owners – are still largely under the radar.  

There are many reasons for this.  One may be that working animals are ‘part of the furniture’ of civilisation – always present and therefore invisible.  People living in communities where working animals are common admit to not even noticing them. 

Conversely, in many industrialised nations, working animals may be considered old fashioned and niche, even though they still play roles in transportation, tourism and livestock raising.  Another reason may be that the people who rely on working animals tend to be the poor and marginalised due to geography or socio-economics, so they do not have a strong voice. 

Yet another reason may be that some nations do not want to acknowledge many of their citizens still rely on working animals in their economies, focusing instead on their progress towards mechanisation.  Why support an apparently outdated way of doing things when the march is on to modernise?

There are three factors that should cause us to embrace the use of working animals. The first is the SDGs themselves, which working animals already help to achieve. Were there policies supporting them and ensuring they were healthy and productive, the benefits of using them would increase.

For instance, a working horse in Senegal costs around $400. If owners were supported with knowledge to provide better basic care to that horse or donkey, and if there were skilled affordable local service providers available to provide vital hoof and veterinary care, they could use their asset for more than ten or 15 years. 

However, without this, that horse could quickly become lame or die, and so unproductive, leading to hardship for the family– so requiring the already struggling owner to invest another $400 to get back to square one. 

The second factor that should awaken us to the relevance of working animals is climate change.  Working animals as mentioned above are a tried and tested green power source. Not only can they survive happily on grasses and plants, but they emit less methane than livestock – and horse manure is an effective and widely used organic fertiliser. 

Environmentally-conscious forestry already uses working animals in logging as their impact on sensitive woodland is much lighter than mechanised machinery.  Working animals are able to take the most direct route to a destination so there is little need to build new roads. Working animals do not require parts made of scarce metals nor are they dependent upon the price of fossil fuels. And when a working animal dies, it can be absorbed back into the earth. 

Thirdly, it has long been understood that human and animal health are closely intertwined, and we ignore this at our peril – as we have seen with COVID 19. The UNEP has recently pointed out that 75% of all emerging infectious diseases are from animals and they do not exclusively emanate from wildlife.

Domesticated animals and livestock can be carriers too, as seen in other previous epidemics such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012 and Avian Influenza Virus H7N9 epidemic in 2013, and now with the current pandemic. Safeguarding the health and welfare of vital working animals is therefore of utmost importance in protecting the health of people. 

Some are awakening to the importance of working animals – for instance the OIE has worked with the International Coalition for Working Equids (ICWE) to develop basic guides to equine welfare and the World Bank is seeking to implement these in their programmes.

However, the fitness and health of working animals has relevance far wider than the realms of veterinary medicine and agriculture. This is why we have established the Working Animal Alliance – an informal network of NGOs, countries, development agencies and organisations to help raise awareness of the role of working equids in achieving the SDGs and the need to provide systems of support for owners to better care for their most important asset. 

If you agree it is time to respect our working animals and appreciate the contribution they make right now, as well as in the future preservation of our sustainable planet, then please join us.

 

Mike Baker is CEO of The Donkey Sanctuary and Roly Owners is CEO of World Horse Welfare