MP members discuss working animals at Climate Week NYC


The role of working animals in mountains and their role in the current climate change scenario was at the heart of an event held by Mountain Partnership (MP) members during Climate Week NYC. Organized by World Horse Welfare and The Donkey Sanctuary in cooperation with the Mountain Partnership Secretariat (MPS), the event reviewed the role working animals play in providing sustainable solutions to addressing the effects of environmental-related disasters and climate change in mountains.

In mountain areas of many low- and middle-income countries, working animals play a critical role in supporting the livelihoods of hundreds of people. They provide access to markets, educational premises and health clinics; and offer affordable draught and transportation power for increased productivity and income generation within agricultural and industrial activities. They also prove crucial in lessening labour burden on social groups, by performing essential activities such as collecting and carrying water otherwise allocated to women and children.

Yuka Makino, MPS Coordinator and Team Leader, Water and Mountains Team, Forestry Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, opened the event by underlining the importance of mountains for our world. "Natural resources are the foundation for all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If we neglect mountains, which are specifically mentioned in three targets under two of the SDGs [6.6, 15.1 and 15.4], we will not achieve the 2030 Agenda. We must take immediate action to protect mountain ecosystems and build the resilience of mountain peoples.”

Tamara Tadich, Associate Professor at the University of Chile, followed with a case study on the use of mules used by the Chilean army and mountain communities. "We are convinced that working equids can improve the welfare of people by helping them reach some of the SDGs, while at the same time, the welfare of mules could be improved when we accomplish these goals," she said.

In his presentation on climate change and mountain regions in Europe, João Azevedo,Coordinator of the Mountain Research Centre in Portugal, stated, "Rural depopulation and abandonment are changing landscapes. Fires are becoming more intense and frequent, which might affect supply of ecosystem services and their value. If we add climate change to the equation, this could become catastrophic."

Maureen Anino, Principal Environment Officer at the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment and Mountain Partnership Steering Committee member, discussed how Uganda’s national policies and programmes have addressed the increase in disasters in mountains in recent years: "We have had increased flooding and landslides, an increased occurrence of diseases and a loss of infrastructure. We are therefore implementing a number of adaptation projects in mountains, mostly geared toward improving the livelihoods of mountain peoples."

Also the MP Steering Committee’s vice president, Gobinda Bahadur Shahi, Programme Manager at the Karnali Integrated Rural Development and Research Centre (KIRDARC), presented the importance of working animals such as horses, mules, goats and oxen to the livelihoods of mountain people in Nepal. He said, "The UN 2030 Agenda is leaving mountain people behind. We must demand for climate change to be addressed in mountains with a focus on mountain economics, which is totally linked to working animals."

Providing the perspective from Guatemala, Jose Galvez, Climate Change Unit Officer, Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, underlined how working animals are vulnerable to climate change and abuse, saying, "The animals are sensitive to changes in temperature, as much as or more than humans, and in some places in Guatemala, animals are physically and mentally exploited."

A final presentation was given by Ian Cawsey, Director of Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns, The Donkey Sanctuary, on why working animals' welfare is important and why they need to be protected from climatic events. He said, "Working animals sustain the communities they are part of. When working animals are well cared for, this can support livelihoods, generate income, empower women and help ensure children are educated."

The side event ended after a question and answer session, followed by closing remarks given by the speakers.

Watch the event recording 

Read more 

Photo by Maryam Farzami

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