ATNESA Empowering Workshop
Animal Traction Network for Eastern and Southern Africa
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Empowering Farmers with Animal Traction into the 21st Century: The workshop report
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The workshop was held at the Loskop Dam Conference Centre, Mpumalanga in South Africa from 21st to 26th September 1999. It was attended by 110 people from 25 different countries. For the first time in ATNESA’s history, representatives from North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Central Africa, East, West and South Africa featured at an ATNESA workshop.

The workshop theme, ‘Empowering farmers with animal traction into the 21st century’, led discussions towards recognising the importance of the smallholder farmers in their contribution to global food security. Most smallholder farmers are resource poor and constitute over 80% of domestic food producers in Sub Saharan Africa. That notwithstanding, smallholder farmers have been marginalised in the era of mechanisation – wrongly perceived as motorisation – hence supporting the minority large-scale farmers. Sadly, this marginalisation has resulted in an exponential increase in numbers below the poverty line particularly in Africa and other third world countries. Fortunately, draught animal power is gaining recognition after close to a decade of lobbying by its promoters. More action on the ground is needed particularly in changing attitudes of stakeholders – especially potential users – as this is indeed one of the greatest constraints.  

At the workshop, emphasis was laid on working out ways of impacting positively on end users by increasing food production. Thus, the smallholder farmer remains the prime client. A need for integrating different sectoral approaches at all levels of the project cycle including on and off-farm research is necessary. The aim is to achieve a holistic output with adequate food and improved livelihoods as a measure. It was with this in mind that workshop outputs were synthesised and action plans developed. 

Workshop objectives 

1. To share regional experiences on empowering farmers and entrepreneurs on the use of animal traction.   
2. To review the research, development, training and extension messages regarding the use of animal traction that have been tried in recent years.  
3. To analyse the existing technologies (harnesses, carts, equipment, etc.), management systems (selection, feeding, animal husbandry, etc.) and the socio-economics of draught animal power use.  
4. To make strategic plans as to how to empower farmers with animal traction in the next millennium.  
5. To propose future national and joint/collaborative activities.  

The above objectives were addressed in the form of thematic paper presentations in plenary sessions, poster presentations, evening sessions, a field visit and group discussions. At the end of the workshop, strategic plans (with action plans) were developed.  

Thematic paper presentations  

A total of five sub-themes were addressed in plenary sessions within the first two days of the workshop. Experiences of stakeholders in animal traction were presented as follows:  

Session 1
General review. After introduction by the ATNESA chairperson, participants were presented with a country synthesis paper on South Africa by the South Africa Network for Animal Traction (SANAT) secretary. SANAT was the official workshop host. Thereafter, papers on worldwide trends, issues and challenges in animal traction, conservation, tillage and environment, and empowering people through donkey power were presented.  

Session 2
Participatory rural development and technology transfer. Papers on experiences of farmers, extensionists, manufacturers and researchers in technology transfer in Ethopia, conservation tillage and watershed management in Kenya and farmers’ participation in testing of implements and harnesses in Ethiopia were presented.  

Session 3
Entrepreneurship, gender and rural transport. In this session, papers presented included: entrepreneurship in animal traction by empowering local initiatives in Tanzania; issues and challenges in empowering farmers and pastoralists through animal-based rural transport in Kenya; gender issues in animal traction and transport in Zambia, Uganda and South Sudan; and supply and distribution of implements and spares in Southern Africa.  

Session 4
 Animal welfare, nutrition and management. Three general papers were given on strategies for improving the effectiveness of crop residues as supplementary feeds for working cattle in semi-arid regions, management of draught animals from a welfare and health perspective, and multipurpose use of work animals in smallholder farming systems.  

Session 5
Case studies and poster presentations. Participants from different countries gave country reports and updates on the status and trends of animal power use in their countries. In this session, all regions of the continent were represented. Posters were mounted and presented and some implements displayed. Discussions on these went on outside plenary sessions and during tea breaks.  

Field visits and demonstration
Farmers in different parts of Mpumalanga province were visited and interviewed informally by small groups of nine to ten people on the third day. Field visits ended with a farmers’ field day organised by government officials and the SANAT secretariat. At the field day, demonstrations were held on implements, tillage practices, harnessing of donkeys, and use of cows for traction. For more effective networking, a joint luncheon was held for farmers, extensionists (and government officials) and workshop participants. Fruitful discussions were held and lessons learnt from these meetings were applied in the workshop synthesis and discussions as well as in the final action planning.  


The last two days of the workshop were spent between group discussions and plenary presentations. Thematic groups were formed and requested to develop action plans on the respective themes. Both long and short term plans were developed. Thereafter, the plans were presented in plenary session for discussion, appropriate changes made and specific workshop participants assigned specific tasks. Each task was allocated a realistic time frame.  

Action planning

Themes requiring action planning were divided broadly into four categories: 
(1) Policy and socio-economics; 
(2) Technology; 
(3) Work animals; 
(4) Specific issues. 
Among the specific issues were: harnessing; feeding strategies; training; image/status of draught animals and their use; field day planning and organisation; participatory processes; and environment.  

Issues such as opening a web-site to strengthen networking by ATNESA and using the site for information exchange and dissemination were suggested by almost every group. The summary below does not represent all key issues addressed in the groups, but mentions some important issues unique to the groups. 

Regarding policy and socio-economic issues, ways of involving policy makers (government officials and donors) in activities on the ground, and aggressive sensitisation of everybody on the good of animal traction were suggested. 

On animal issues, capacity building in the form of training at both extensionist and end user level were emphasised. On-farm testing of research recommendations of past animal husbandry projects (e.g. harnessing, feeding regimes and others in relation to work animals) should be carried out while ensuring that existing indigenous practices and knowledge are incorporated whenever they are complimentary.  

Some recommendations from the technical group were: on-farm research on improvement of implement design; quality control of implements; participation in trade fairs and agricultural shows; facilitation of exchange visits of users and manufacturers.”  

During the workshop, a new ATNESA Committee was elected. The Workshop Proceedings, which will contain copies of all the papers presented at the workshop, the workshop conclusions and the addresses of participants is now available.  Click here to download a detailed and illustrated report of this workshop.

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