Celebrating World Donkey Day

Our Vision is a Zambia where working donkeys are free from suffering, treated with compassion and genuinely valued by the people who rely on them.

May 8th is World Donkey Day!

Through the ages, donkeys have served humanity and endured the harshest conditions. May 8th is World Donkey Day and celebrates the world’s most enduring and stoic of animals. However, many donkeys still live in constant pain, and often their owners are unequipped to provide the care these animals require. This is when the Zambezi Working Donkey Project steps in.

About the Zambezi Working Donkey Project

Zambezi Working Donkey Project (ZWDP) is a small but growing not for profit organisation in Livingstone, Zambia run by volunteers. It was founded in 2019 to relieve the suffering and promote the welfare of working donkeys in rural Zambia. It is a harsh life for many of these animals, with extreme poverty and lack of the awareness and skills needed to care for donkeys.

The Problem

For rural donkey owners, the animals are usually their most valuable assets. Donkeys often provide a lifeline for their owners, who use them to farm and transport water, firewood, and goods to market. If treated well, working donkeys can live for many years, providing a means of income and better quality of life for the household. 

However, working donkeys often drive tens of miles to market on very rough and rocky roads, using heavy hardwood yokes designed for oxen use, resulting in painful and debilitating wounds. In addition, the carts are usually old car chassis with a hardwood tree trunk for a shaft, making the cart extremely heavy even before being overloaded with goods and people. 

Once at the market, donkeys are often left out in the sun for long periods with no food or water and are then required to make the long journey home while hungry, dehydrated, in pain and near exhaustion. The use of ox yokes on immature donkeys is common, and injuries remain untreated due to limited access or money for veterinary care.

The Solution

Over the past years, ZWDP has begun to tackle these issues by setting up the first working donkey outreach program for Livingstone’s rural villages. Zambezi Working Donkey Project has improved the lives of many donkeys and subsequently their owners by:

  • Limiting the use of wooden yokes 
  • Discouraging overloading
  • Providing basic harnesses made in the ZWDP participatory harness making workshop and 
  • Modifying carts to cut away weighty excess metal
  • Installing shafts to make them lighter and easier to pull
  • Providing veterinary care, including:
    • wounds treatment
    • supplying tick and worm treatment
    • teaching about the correct care and use of donkeys and livestock.
    • To date, the Zambezi Working Donkey Project has:
    • met and treated 1926 donkeys
    • engaged with 396 owners and over 4000 community members
    • interacted with over 95 villages
    • provided 484 sets of humane harnesses!

A network has been formed of Community Livestock Officers in key villages. The aim is that these leaders will help with coordination, monitoring & evaluation. In addition, their role is in training and empowering farmers to care for their donkeys and ensuring best practices for carts and harnesses.

Rescue & Rehabilitation

As of May 2024, the Zambezi Working Donkey Project has rescued 89 donkeys in need. Each animal was transported to the ZWDP base at Maramba Farm in Livingstone for treatment. These donkeys were either released under ‘Consent to Release’ terms or confiscated with the aid of local authorities.

Some donkeys are returned to their owners once fully recovered, while others are adopted into non-working homes. In addition, a growing herd of rescue donkeys is in the permanent care of ZWDP due to their age or condition. 

How You Can Help

The Zambezi Working Donkey Project is a small charity and relies 100% on donations and goodwill from kind people like you who want to make a difference in the daily lives of these fantastic animals.

If you have space in your luggage, then the project is always in need of:

  • equine equipment such as head collars (pony/foal sizes) 
  • lead ropes
  • fly masks
  • blankets
  • grooming kits
  • farrier tools
  • veterinary materials, and
  • yoga mats or strong webbing for making straps

If you are planning a camping trip that ends in Zambia, please consider donating some equipment that our team can use when they make trips into the field – tents, sleeping mats, sleeping bags, torches, solar chargers, and cooking equipment are all handy! Donations can be dropped off at either Jollyboys Backpackers, Victoria Falls Waterfront or Chundukwa River Lodge c/o the Zambezi Working Donkey Project. 

Of course, as with any charity, the Zambezi Working Donkey Project always needs funds to continue its work. The donkeys sincerely appreciate any donations, and you can be assured that all funds are spent where they are needed the most.

Please get in touch with the Zambezi Working Donkey Project if you would like any further information about the inspiring work they do in Livingstone, Zambia.