Animal rights activists have sounded a warning that the current massive slaughter of donkeys will greatly hurt the economy in rural, arid and semi-arid areas.
The current massive slaughter to meet China’s high demand for donkey meat and skins has seen more than 100,000 of the animals slaughtered over the past one year.
Activists say the situation has also contributed to theft of donkeys for slaughter, crippling the economy in rural areas.
Carrying of luggage
“The major mode of transport in rural areas is the donkey. Most of the work that includes carrying of luggage such as maize, firewood and water for domestic and commercial use, is done by these donkeys. However, most of them are sold to fetch ‘easy’ money,” Linus Mwirigi, the Chairman of Tunza Punda organisation says.
According Mr Mwirigi, it is estimated that a donkey contributes Sh200 daily for six days per week to the rural economy, amounting to an average of Sh4,800 monthly or Sh57,600 annually.
The rising global trade demand for donkey hides and skins, which are used to manufacture anti-ageing and libido-enhancing products, has given rise to donkey trade in most African countries – the latest entrant being Kenya.
The damning statistics coupled with low donkey reproduction levels globally is a thing to worry about.
According to 2009 statistics by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Kenya had 1.8 million donkeys, a number Tunza Punda says has dropped due to low reproduction and increased butchering.
The situation is fuelled by the fact that there is not much concentration of donkey breeding for commercial purposes, which could have contributed to the decrease in donkey numbers.
“The numbers are way less than 1.5 million across the country as most donkeys are secured by the owners hence denying them time to reproduce.
According to Donkey Sanctuary, the global demand for donkey skin is unsustainable, and move that is simultaneously causing mass-scale suffering to donkeys and risking the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on them.
“The skin trade is really something that just came out of nowhere, and it’s the biggest, fastest crisis we’ve seen,” said Alex Mayers, a programme manager at Donkey Sanctuary said in a press release.
According to National Livestock Policy estimates, that 50 per cent of employment especially in the Arid and Semi-Arid (Asal) areas come from the livestock sub-sector where donkeys are major economic contributors for the rural economy.
In the economic value chain, donkeys are used for transport, agriculture and support the tourism and hotel industry.
According to a research conducted in 2013 by Brooke East Africa and the Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies (Kendat), donkeys were ranked first in three counties compared to other livestock for their role in helping with household chores and caring for other livestock, as they carry fodder and water for other animals.
The research was conducted in Kiambu, Kirinyaga and Nyandarua.
To satisfy the demand of donkey products in China, Asia, South America and Africa have been the main target.
However, the move has received criticism that has attracted complete ban of donkey trade in countries such as Burkina Faso,Niger, Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.
However, large-scale slaughtering of the animals are on-going in countries including Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania.