The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust (GHDT) is a small charity, registered in both the UK and The Gambia. Founded in 2002 by the late Stella Marsden and her sister Heather Armstrong its aim is to reduce rural poverty in The Gambia through improving the health, welfare and productivity of working animals.
With such an admirable ethos we just had to see for ourselves and on a recent expedition from the coast to Georgetown together with seven other guests decided to visit the project.
GHDT is roughly about three and a half hours drive from Footsteps with some great sights along the way, passing through towns and villages large and small along a mostly good road we arrive at our destination and are greeted by Heather, a matriarchal homely woman with kind eyes and a beaming smile.
On first meeting Heather, she immediately adopts everyone into her circle making sure we all had something to drink and the promise of some food after her tour of the project. She obviously has a deep love for all animals and talks of them as one would a very close friend.
She explains the way to ensure animals are looked after correctly is to emphasise the benefits of keeping a healthy horse or donkey, telling us that a healthy working animal can increase a farming family’s income by up to 500% and buying an animal is a big investment for a family. If the animal becomes sick or dies its not only the animal that suffers, but its owners suffer too. The Gambia is one of the poorest countries in Africa and is unable to provide all the veterinary support that the farmers require, so when the animals become ill, sometimes the owners are simply unable to find help for it.
Keeping horses and donkeys healthy in The Gambia is a real challenge; insect borne diseases such as Sleeping Sickness (Trypanosomiasis), African Horse Sickness, and tick fever are all too common and when these problems are combined with poor nutrition and management caused by lack of knowledge and poverty, the results can be disastrous for the farmers.
Alongside Heather we meet several young vets from all over the world, the project relies greatly on the donation of their skills and time. While on our tour of the facility we saw a donkey with severe injuries to its leg which was receiving treatment whilst under heavy sedation and while difficult to watch it was fascinating to see this group of caring young vets working to help the injured animal.
Before leaving the project and returning back to the coast Heather told us:
“We believe in providing the Gambian people with the skills and knowledge to prevent and solve their own problems, creating a long term, sustainable solution. We rely heavily upon dedicated volunteers who offer their time and services to help us, and we employ a team of local Gambian staff. The GHDT is a small charity that has had many great achievements, but to continue this work your support is urgently sought. We need your help and we make every single penny count. Our aims are achieved through a variety of projects including education, community, vets and show.”
We all had a fantastic day visiting The GHDT, the drive there and back was fun and interesting with commentary from our driver Lamin. Once there the positive energy that exists within the project and its volunteers will leave you feeling exhilarated and happy you chose to visit such an inspiring place.
While holidaying at Footsteps you can enjoy a day at The GHDT by booking in advance through our website or alternatively arrange whilst at the lodge through David or the general manager Dodou.
If you would like to make a donation today online please go here.