Animal Friends Blog
The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust was founded in 2002 by the late Stella Marsden and her sister Heather Armstrong with the aim of reducing rural poverty through improving the health, welfare and productivity of working equines.
With no tradition of horsemanship in The Gambia and a combination of poor management, high disease risk and poverty, farmers were investing comparatively large amounts of money for a working animal only for it to die to soon, often within six months. Not only was this causing further hardship for the farmers, it was also creating a serious animal welfare problem and the veterinary services did not have the infrastructure or finances to be able to help the farmers.
A healthy working animal can increase a farming family’s income by up to 500% and is a huge investment for a family. If the animal becomes sick or dies, it’s not only the animal that suffers, but its owners do too. 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 the animals become ill, sometimes the owners are simply unable to find help for it.
We believe in helping both people and animals and that the two go hand in hand.
Keeping horses and donkeys healthy in The Gambia is a real challenge; insect borne diseases such as sleeping sickness (trypanosomiasis), African horse sickness and tick fever are all too common. When these problems are combined with poor nutrition and management caused by lack of knowledge and poverty, the results can be disastrous for the farmers and their families. We believe in providing the Gambian people with the skills and knowledge to help prevent and solve potential problems by creating a long term and sustainable solution.
At The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust we have a strong focus on education. Today’s children are the leaders of tomorrow, so our ‘School Education Programme’ encourages Gambian children to develop empathy and an understanding of their animals to create a long lasting change in attitude. We all know that it is easier to learn when we are having fun, so for that reason our lessons are as exciting and interactive as possible, enabling the children to take part and enjoy themselves too.
Our local ‘Donkey Club’ sees children attending with their own donkeys, where they come to learn and play at the same time. By utilising sport to aid learning, we encourage the children to take part in ‘Donkey Ball’– a cross between netball and football on donkeys. This has had a dramatic effect on how the children feel about their donkeys and how well they take care of them. We also run workshops about equine care and welfare for farming communities and training programmes for equine professionals such as farriers, harness makers and paravets.
We provide essential veterinary services through mobile veterinary clinics and our equine veterinary centre based in rural Gambia, giving both routine treatments and emergency care.
Currently, we are raising funds to enable us to open a second centre in a different area of The Gambia where we will be able to reach more urban equine populations and continue our educational programmes. We are desperately seeking as much help as we can get with this and are extremely grateful for any support that you are able to give!