Skill Levels In Societies Currently Relying On Animal Power

In some areas of the world, draft animals are part of the traditional way of cultivating the land. For instance, in Ethiopia, Egypt, India, Nepal, Southeast Asia, North Africa, and in most of Latin America, people are accustomed to training and managing their draft animals. Implements are readily available locally, usually made from local materials, with a local system to repair and replace them.

In other areas of the world, draft animal power is a more recent technology in cultivation and crop production. For instance, until recently in West Africa and much of sub-Saharan Africa, animal diseases prevented the keeping of animals in many areas, and the traditional methods of cultivating the land used manual labor only. It is only within the last century that many people have made use of draft animals on their farms in these areas, following availability of drugs (Fig. 1). Because of the relative newness of the technology, the support infrastructure might not be available locally. As a result, the animals and implements available are expensive, and they involve considerable investment by the farmers before they can see the benefits and the drawbacks for themselves. Often, implements are imported or manufactured by companies selling a range of agricultural

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Fig. 1 Training oxen on a course in Seroti, Uganda. (Photo courtesy of R.A. Pearson.) (View this art in color at www.dekker.com.)

equipment. Although spares may be available, the manufacturers or retailers can be some distance from the farm, and so repairs cannot be done in situ in the fields, as they often can be in more traditional systems.

A lack of skill can often be seen where working animals are used in transport enterprises in urban areas. In these operations, while some users have a long experience of working with animals, others have little experience in livestock keeping. Equids tend to be favored over ruminants for their greater speed in urban transport. The horse or donkey is used to provide a daily income, rather as a vehicle would be, and may be regarded as an expendable item by some, with little care given to working practices or its management. Cattle, buffalo, and camels generally fare better, largely due to their resale value for meat. Thus, it is not surprising that the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and animal charities often voice welfare concerns for the working horse and donkey.

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