Help Needed to Support Working Horses, Donkeys and Their Owners Through West African Food Crisis
04/16/2012

Areas of West Africa, including The Gambia, are currently facing severe food shortages due to poor rains over the past two years. Urgent assistance is being requested by the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust to help animals and their owners through this difficult time.

Online PR News – 16-April-2012 – Gambia – The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation have declared the need for URGENT support in areas of West Africa, including The Gambia, due to a severe food shortage. One of the poorest countries in the world, The Gambia ranks 160th out of 179 countries in the 2007/8 UNDP Human Development Report. The Gambia is one of the smallest countries in Africa, surrounded on three sides by Senegal, and poverty is widespread.

Due to poor and unpredictable rain patterns in 2011 the harvest was extremely poor. This has resulted in a shortage of fodder for livestock as well as shortages of food for Gambian families. Numerous families are facing severe malnutrition and possible starvation. The shortage has also resulted in a dramatic increase in grain and fodder prices, making it extremely difficult for poor farming communities to be able to afford to purchase these items. Urgent action is required to prevent a full-scale food and nutrition crisis.

The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust is a small UK based charity working in The Gambia to reduce rural poverty through improving the health and welfare of working equines. This is done through a combination of veterinary services and education of animal owners and their children.

Spokeswoman from the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust says “The farming communities of The Gambia are facing real difficulties, and of course when the people suffer the animals suffer too. In order to prevent the crisis from worsening it is essential that we keep the animals healthy, so that they’re ready and able to work when hopefully the rains start again this year. If the present situation continues, the animals that survive will be in such poor condition from starvation that they will be unable to work, thus creating a downward spiral. The animals are essential to the livelihoods of Gambian farmers – without them the farmers are unable to carry out their farming duties. Malnutrition increases the risk of infection and infectious diseases, which are common in The Gambia, and is a major risk factor to humans and animals alike.”

The Gambia has a sub-tropical climate with distinct dry and rainy seasons. It is currently the arid dry season in The Gambia during which very little plant life is able to survive. Throughout the dry season Gambian farmers rely on the previous year’s harvest to feed their animals, but these supplies are now severely depleted and even completely diminished in some areas. The rains usually begin in June or July and the commencement of the rains coincides with the start of the farming season. Gambian farmers rely heavily on livestock, and particularly on equines, for farming duties such as ploughing and sowing and these animals are essential for the survival of Gambian families.

We are currently consulting with Gambian Authorities and other experts to find the best way to help alleviate the problems. This may involve shipping fodder for the animals in the worst hit areas as a stop gap until the rains fall and the grass begins to grow. We are urging people to help in any way that you can. If you are able to make a donation to the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust, however small or large, please do. We really do desperately need your help to enable us to help the farming families in The Gambia through this very difficult time of crisis.

If you would like to support the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust, you can do so in a number of easy and simple ways:

* Visit our website (www.gambiahorseanddonkey.org.uk) and donate online using the ‘Online Donations’ tab at the left side of the page OR donate via our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/gambiahorseanddonkey?ref=tn_tnmn)
* If you are in the UK, text GHDT01 £10 (or £1, £2, £5, £8) to 70070 – all of the money that you donate goes to us for the simple cost of a text message
* Sponsor a Gambian horse or donkey by visiting www.gambiahorseanddonkeytrust.org.uk or hold a fundraising event in aid of the charity.
* Donate items of unwanted tack. We regularly send bits (4” to 5”), head collars, girths, and bridles to The Gambia. Please see website for further details.

For further information about the work of the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust please visit the website: www.gambiahorseanddonkey.org.uk