Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America and also one of the poorest, with high levels of poverty and unemployment. The country contains an estimated 400,000 working horses, which communities depend upon for vital income and services.
World Horse Welfare has been working in Nicaragua since 2011. In September 2014 World Horse Welfare set up a formal partnership with the Universidad de Ciencias Comerciales, to develop a community based programme working within the regions of Leon and Managua. This joint programme will focus on sustainability enabling communities to have access to key service providers that will offer skilled and affordable solutions to many of the common problems faced by working horses and their owners.
Working horses are used throughout Nicaragua to provide a livelihood to horse owners and their families, and play a central and vital role to the country’s poorest communities. Horses are used to collect and transport recyclable materials and rubbish, transport fruit, vegetables and other goods, and in agriculture. They also provide transport enabling families to go to market, children to get to school and family members to get to health clinics and hospitals. Without their horse many families would be unable to make a living and in Nicaragua it is evident how heavily whole communities rely on their working horse for their livelihood.
We have trained a Community Based Equine Adviser within each community, allowing horse owners to receive regular and on-going training on many aspects of horse care, health and husbandry. We have also provided training to local farriers within each community to strengthen their existing skills and increase their technical knowledge.
We have also provided capacity building to saddlers already supplying materials to the working horse communities, assiting them in gaining increased skills needed to produce improved harness systems. Where saddlers do not exist the programme has undertaken training of key individuals using an affordable and natural-fibre harness system created by the World Horse Welfare’s programme in Honduras.
By providing a community based approach to the programme, as well as strengthening the curriculum and training of the veterinary students at the UCC in equine medicine it is expect that this network of service provision and support that horse owners will be able to maintain the health and prevent the deterioration of their working horse. The health of their horse and its ability to work is crucial for the livelihood of many Nicaraguan families.
In 2014, we completed our initial community-based programme in the south-east region of Managua. The bespoke training programme was designed specifically to meet the needs of the community and provided the foundation for an enduring change in the way people care for their working horses.
Throughout 2011 we conducted research in Nicaragua to assess the conditions of working horses and gained an in-depth understanding of horse owners’ needs. In 2012 and 2013, we developed and implemented a programme to help local community members by providing them with basic horse management skills to look after their working horses, as well as advancing the skills of local horseshoe makers, farriers and harness makers. This combined approach enabled horse owners and service providers to work together and become more self-sufficient.
With the support of the local team in Nicaragua, the charity organised monthly community group meetings, which were open to horse owners within our working area. They covered the aspects of basic horse care that research showed was most needed: educating owners on basic first aid, farriery, harness fitting, health, nutrition, road safety and security.
We have improved the skills of local horse service providers – such as horseshoe makers, farriers, and saddlers – and provided horse owners with sustainable and lasting access to affordable, good quality services within their community.