Ockley-based charity helping animals facing difficulty during Ebola crisis

The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust, based in Ockley, are helping donkeys and horses affected by the Ebola crisis in the Gambia SUS-141212-142128001
The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust, based in Ockley, are helping donkeys and horses affected by the Ebola crisis in the Gambia SUS-141212-142128001

The Ockley-based charity,The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust (GHDT) is a small UK registered charity that aims to reduce rural poverty in The Gambia by helping the farmers to improve the health, welfare and productivity of their working equines.

In The Gambia equines are relied upon heavily by their owners for farming and transportation. The Gambia is one of the poorest countries in Africa and is unable to provide all the veterinary support that the farmers require, so when their animals become ill, sometimes the owners are simply unable to find help for it.

Making the work of The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust even harder is the threat of Ebola. Although there is no Ebola in The Gambia, the threat of this disease is having a massive impact on the area in general. The Gambian Health Services are being very active to ensure that Ebola does not enter their country. Tourism in The Gambia is down by 60%, which is affecting not only the local people involved in the tourist industry but also the local farmers too, which in turn has a detrimental effect on the welfare of their animals.

Most families in The Gambia have members employed in tourism that in turn supplements their income from farming.

With tourism declining at present The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust are finding that they have less visitors to their centre and also that the volunteers that we rely so heavily on are not visiting so readily at present. The Trust however is lucky to employ a team of dedicated local Gambian staff.

Not only is Ebola having an impact but the rains this year in the area that The Trust is based in has not seen the normal amount of rainfall that is expected, therefore the harvests have been poor so there is less money available due to the lack of crops and also costs have gone up.

This unfortunately also means there is very little fodder for the horses and donkeys.

A healthy working animal can increase a farming family’s income by up to 500% and buying an animal is a big investment for a family.

If the animal becomes sick or dies not only does the animal suffer, but its owners suffer too. There is very little history of horsemanship in The Gambia so GHDT have a large focus on educational animal welfare programmes, to equip the Gambian people with the knowledge and skills to solve their own problems.

The vast majority of equine problems that the charity is faced with are as a direct result of poverty and poor education.

The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust work holistically and have approached poverty reduction in a number of imaginative and sustainable ways to empower the Gambians to increase the productivity of their working animals so as to increase their owner’s income.

By helping the animals, the lives of their owners are improved, and vice versa.

The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust provides veterinary treatment at their centre in Sambel Kunda, where in-patients can be admitted if necessary and also provides weekly mobile veterinary clinics to the more rural areas.

GHDT is also teaching local people skills such as harness making and farriery.

Aside from the team of local Gambian staff and one paid UK staff member, the GHDT is operated by dedicated volunteers.

Volunteer vets, farriers and harness makers from the UK are relied upon heavily for their expertise, and have provided essential training and services to ensure the sustainability of the GHDT’s work. If you would like to help raise funds, donate tack, volunteer or learn more about The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust please email ghdt@gambiahorseanddonkey.org.uk or visit our website www.gambiahorseanddonkey.org.uk

Report and picture contributed by The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust.