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APaD’s work in Protecting the Welfare of Donkeys

By Agency for Cross-Border Pastoralists Development

Animal welfare has for a long time been a hot debate among organizations that lobby for proper animal welfare as that is what defines an animal’s well-being. The donkey particularly, that is considered as a working animal continues to top the conversation especially in pastoral areas in Turkana county and other neighboring areas.

The value and contribution of working animals in pastoralist communities cannot be underestimated. These working animals are particularly important to the pastoralists as they contribute to their work by providing labor and transport, generating security for pastoral livelihoods and for cultural practices.

An image showing pastoralists in transit with the help of the donkeys

 Their welfare too is highly important because without proper animal welfare, the animals reciprocate by producing poorly. Donkey welfare especially is a special focus for APaD because donkeys have been experiencing animal welfare related issues such as inhumane slaughter, overworking or even getting killed for export.

The donkey though still remains the pastoralists’ reliable “vehicle” of all times considering their mobility nature of moving from place to place in search of pasture and water. They use donkeys to transport goods such as households and even carry the smaller animals like dogs and cats. During the farming season, they are used for threshing, raising water, milling and other works in the farm.

Enhancing donkey resilience and welfare project

One of the main projects that APaD has undertaken in order to improve animal welfare is the ‘Enhancing donkey resilience and welfare project’ among the Karamoja communities of Loima-Moroto corridor in order to address the challenges that donkeys face. The project aims to improve the welfare of donkeys by addressing the cross border theft and illegal slaughter of donkeys for their hides which are sold in Lodwar.

Despite the Chinese operated Silzha abattoir having closed in march 2020 following a government directive on the ban of donkey trade, there is significant trade in donkey skins within Lodwar and other towns within the county. There is reported increase in donkey thefts within Karamoja districts which are sold to traders and brokers supplying the Chinese operated abattoir in Tororo in Eastern Uganda.

Donkey owners in Turkana county protest the reopening of the Silzha abattoir

In most of the sub counties, donkeys are slaughtered mainly because of sudden demand for donkey skin in China. The donkeys have high demand back home as their skins are apparently used in the production of ejiao, a traditional medicine made from gelatin extracted from boiled donkey hides. Ejiao is sought for a range of ailments, from delaying ageing and increasing libido to preventing menstrual irregularity, preventing infertility, miscarriage and to treat side effects of chemotherapy.

There are also few Livestock Service Providers and Community Animal Health Workers to address the issue of limited awareness on donkey welfare and management. The project also aims to create awareness to the providers including the community disease reporters, chiefs and LCIIIs within the region.

Other than slaughter, donkeys also experience other loads of problems that include;

  • Malnutrition: Malnutrition occurs when the donkeys lack food and water due to the drought that often strikes the Turkana region. They end up being underweight and malnourished.
  • Dehydration is very common especially during the dry seasons for reasons such as not having enough to drink while working or resting.
  • Disease and injury. Such include lameness – being unable to walk normally and having pain in their limbs, infection by parasites inside or on their bodies and body wounds on their bodies.
  • Harsh Environmental Conditions. Donkeys carry heavy loads before their body can cope with the weight, accompanied by heat stress which can lead to death if left untreated. They are also overworked and end up experiencing extreme fatigue and susceptibility to infections.
  • Behavior problems and restrictions. Donkeys at times have bad experiences with humans or something in their surroundings.
  • Restricted movement. They at times feel uncomfortable or not being able to move freely.
  • Poor management practices. Such include bad housing conditions of having no shelter or shade or being tied badly by their legs and harmful practices of being subjected to traditional treatment, mutilation or being abandoned after work.

How is APaD addressing the Challenges?

  • APaD supported two interactive radio shows at Ateker Radio in Moroto to discuss the donkey resilience project. The radio station that has a wide coverage in the three Karamoja districts and across the border introduced the donkey welfare project to the community and held two radio talk shows in March,2019, accompanied by round table meetings with partners such as DADO, KDF and MADEFO. From the radio talk shows, it was observed that the cross border pastoralist communities of Turkana, Jie, Matheniko and Tepeth value their donkey just like all the other livestock.
Sensitization of the community on Ateker Radio
  • Assessment of cross border donkey trade, hides, migratory routes, donkey populations and welfare issues in Moroto, Kaabong and Kotido districts. This assessment was conducted between April 20th-April,28th 2019.It covered Loima in Turkana Kenya and three other districts in Karamoja, Uganda namely Moroto, Kotido and Kaabong districts. Development of assessment tools was done and reviews completed with support from Brooke East Africa, the project donor. Ugandan partners-MADEFO and DADO were instrumental in mobilizing local enumerators who understand the culture and the grography of the place better
  • Support community monitoring and action against donkey theft and smuggling on both sides of the border in collaboration with CDRs,CAHWs,kraal elders, cross border peace committees and other youth peace councils.
  • Facilitating training of 15 CDRs from Loima on donkey diseases and linkage to the Turkana county e-surveillance. APAD-Kenya and Turkana County Government partnered through the ministry of Agriculture, Pastoral Economy and Fisheries and specifically directorate of Veterinary services to conduct donkey welfare training to selected community livestock disease reporters on the common diseases of donkeys, their basic treatment and management and donkey welfare issues and their linkage to county e-surveillance.
  • Training 15 CAHWS on donkey management and donkey diseases in Kaabong and Moroto districts. It had been revealed that knowledge on donkey welfare is very limited among the CAHWs (Community Animal Health Workers) in Moroto and Kaabong. The facilitator, A Moroto District Veterinary Officer and CAHWS drawn from Moroto and Kotido districts also noted that no single organization or project has ever targeted donkeys in Uganda. The CAHWs therefore remain excited and grateful about the new project focusing on donkey welfare. The two-day training was attended by 15 Community Animal Health Workers (CAHWS) from Kaabong and Moroto Districts. The training was facilitated by the District Veterinary Officer for Moroto District and APaD
Sensitizing the community on donkey management practices
  • Sensitization of 15 Livestock Service Providers in Moroto on equine welfare management and diseases. Livestock Service Providers were sensitized on equine welfare management practices with a focus on 5 animal freedoms, shelter, diseases diagnosis and management, role of Community Animal Health workers, Government services and partners in donkey welfare management.
  • Facilitation of a meeting of Fifteen (15) Administrators including chiefs, LCIII (equivalent of chiefs from Uganda), National and County government administrators at sub-county level to develop actionable plans to address cross border theft and illegal slaughter of donkeys.
  •  Identification and training of 15(fifteen) women donkey users on Village Savings and Loaning association and linkages with other opportunities at the county as a coping strategy.
  • Supporting the rehabilitation of bore hole and water troughs within the project area (Loima and Karamoja area)
  • Participation in Alliance for Donkey Welfare Organizations in Kenya (ADWOK) activities, an organization that lobbies for proper donkey welfare. The association consists of organizations such as APaD, Send A Cow Kenya, KENDAT, Farming Systems Kenya and CARITAS Kitui and aims to promote donkey welfare in the Kenya through lobbying for donkey friendly livestock policies with the county and national governments.

Setbacks in addressing Donkey welfare in Turkana County

  • The high expectation of the community for provision of treatment and drugs for not only the donkeys but also for the other livestock. The donkeys that were seriously sick were left untreated this is because the veterinarian was not equipped to handle the cases.
  • There exist a lot of knowledge gaps concerning the donkey welfare in Turkana County and Moroto,Kaabong and Kotido districts of Uganda.
  • The donkey has not been included in the County government’s budget for livestock and this leads to it being excluded in livestock planning activities such as livestock treatment campaigns and other livestock services.
  • Donkey theft is an emerging issue in the entire region; this has reduced the number of donkeys. This theft is due to the high demand for the donkey hides.
  • The construction of a slaughterhouse in Lodwar by Silzha Company, a Chinese enterprise for domestic consumption and the demand in donkey hides has generated lots of interest on donkey issues. Armed conflict and cattle rustling between the Jie of Uganda and Turkana of Kenya which erupted in late October. Excess rainfall has also led to death of a number of donkeys and impassable roads during program implementation.

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