Dr Max Kelly1
1Deakin University, , Australia
Despite a heavy reliance on draft animal power, donkeys are not traditional animals in Malawi. Currently, there are approximately 15,000 donkeys in Malawi, many descending from 300 donkeys imported in the late 1950s. Human donkey interactions are driven primarily by the contribution of donkeys to human labour, and livelihoods. The place of donkeys in the 21st century is increasingly precarious for a number of reasons, including burgeoning demand for donkey products (skins) globally, as well as their displacement in ‘modern’ society of the global north. However, they can play a pivotal role in livelihoods of those who depend on them for traction, transport, and less often, meat, and milk. Outside of their economic contributions, the complex interactions between donkeys and humans are largely untold.
This research explores and analyzes the complex role of working donkeys, in a specific context; Malawi. The research is qualitative, working with donkey owning communities in central Malawi to explore social, cultural, ecological, as well as the economic role of donkeys. The research contributes broadly to both a more evidence-based understanding of the role of working donkeys in development and contributes to debates around human-animal interactions and social and cultural values of working animals in Africa.
Max lectures in International and Community Development Studies at Deakin University, specialising in development policy, food security, food systems, and sustainability from local to international. She is an Agricultural Scientist, turned social scientist. She is currently working on two main projects, critical analysis of the political economy of global development, and animals and ethics in development. She has just published a co-authored monograph on Foreign Aid in the age of Populism, and an edited volume on Women Researching Africa. She has researched consulted and worked from farms to offices across the globe, with an ongoin passion for Malawi.