Beasts of Burden

A trip to the Kathmandu Valley to photograph the human and animal workforce in brick kilns.

Mules are bred in India and purchased there to work in Nepal’s brick kilns. If they survive in reasonable condition they can be sold on as mountain pack animals at the end of the season. The mule owners bring with them boys to drive the mules back and forth, from the brick drying stacks to the kiln itself. Many of these children are classed as bonded labour. Their families are paid upfront for the child’s season of work. They can rapidly become trapped in a cycle of debt.
Conditions are even worse for adult workers. The safe working load for a mule is a third of its bodyweight. I saw adults carrying as many as 32 two-kilo bricks – effectively their entire bodyweight.
If you want to know more about this issue have a look at ‘Brick by Brick’. This excellent report links environment, human labour and animal welfare.

Brick Kiln Kathmandu Nepal

Brick Kiln Kathmandu Nepal

Brick Kiln Kathmandu Nepal

Brick Kiln Kathmandu Nepal

Brick Kiln Kathmandu Nepal

Brick Kiln Kathmandu Nepal

Brick Kiln Kathmandu NepalBrick Kiln Kathmandu NepalBrick Kiln Kathmandu NepalBrick Kiln Kathmandu NepalBrick Kiln Kathmandu NepalBrick Kiln Kathmandu NepalBrick Kiln Kathmandu NepalBrick Kiln Kathmandu NepalBrick Kiln Kathmandu Nepal

Brick Kiln Kathmandu Nepal

Work, Climate and Donkeys

For donkeys as well as people, the brick kilns in India are dangerous and unhealthy places to work – but unemployment is worse.

The RAJ brick kiln in Rajakhera near Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.

At the RAJ kiln near Agra, accommodation for donkeys and their owners lies empty. Unseasonal rains have waterlogged the brick kilns and there’s no work for them here.

Back in the home village of Madhupur, 16-year old Archang wakes early to begin looking after the unemployed men of her family.

The family have to feed themselves and their donkeys, whether or not they’re earning.

Families who also own a cart can occasionally earn some money hauling a load.

But most of the men and their animals will be out of work until the kilns dry out again.

Climate change makes life more precarious.