Low fertility, over exploitation threatens survival of the donkey
By Judith Akolo
Low fertility rates, minimal attention and management by farmers as well as the recent commercial slaughter of donkeys for export of skin and meat threatens to drive the donkey into extinction.
In his presentation to the 2022 Pan African Donkey conference held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Tixon Nzunda, said that in Africa, “the donkey as a draught animal, has uses including transportation of goods, farm inputs and outputs, water, firewood and it is also a means of transport in some societies,” he said adding that, “this is so because the donkey is capable of passing through bad terrain where motorised transport like vehicles and motorcycles may not be able to access.”
The Permanent Secretary however noted that despite the importance of the draught animal, the donkey is among the disregarded animals in the livestock sector and today some farmers are hoodwinked into selling at US$ 132 which is equivalent to Tshs 300,000.
Nzunda explained that the reason the Tanzanian government has banned trade in donkeys and their products is because, in 2014 the government issued permits to two companies to start commercial abattoirs for donkeys with conditions that, “they would establish breeding farms, contract donkey farmers, donkey ranches and slaughter of restricted number of donkeys per day while strictly abiding to animal welfare issues,” he said adding that, “Unfortunately, all these conditions were not fulfilled and in 2022, the Government banned of the live donkey trade, donkey slaughter and trade of donkey skin and meat.”
He said that among the challenges facing the productive capacity and impede the harnessing of the full potential of the donkey as draught animal is the inadequate knowledge and skills of farmers on the use of donkeys, poor animal husbandry practices, poor genetic potential and minimal investment in supporting the donkey production.
“Most donkeys in Africa suffer from inbreeding, poor nutrition, inadequate health and veterinary services,” he said adding that donkeys are not given attention they need by the society.
During the ban, the Tanzanian government has put in place measures to help promote production as well as regulate donkeys within the livestock sector by reviewing the Livestock Policy of 2006 to include policy statements that promote donkey production, improve breeding and increase extension services on draught animals; Tanzania is also legislating on the donkey production, trade, slaughter, welfare and general uses of draught animals in the country; “The Ministry is developing guidelines management, breeding, trade, welfare and general production of donkeys.”
Among the key measures is the move by the Ministry of Livestock to initiate donkey identification and registration exercise through use of electronic ear tags, “so as to be able to map the distribution of donkeys in the country,” said Nzunda.
He further explained that the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries has formulated the five years (2022/23 to 2026/27) Livestock Sector Transformation Plan (LSTP) 2022 which sets out livestock-sector investment areas. Under the plan, the Tanzania government is setting up productive high-quality livestock breeds; water, pasture and animal feeds; animal health; extension; livestock research and training services; value addition of livestock products; and national ranching company done through the public, private sector partnerships.
He appealed to investors to take advantage of the provision in the LSTP and invest in the livestock sector “including donkey production considering the potential for a market for donkeys and donkey products like skin and meat.
The Permanent Secretary appealed to the African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU –IBAR), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) the Animal Welfare and Animal Rights Societies to cooperate and promote donkey production. He urged researchers to carry out more research on the donkey so as to come up with ways improving the donkey fertility in order to increase their numbers.
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Tanzania bans trade in donkey and donkey products
By Judith Akolo
The Tanzanian government has banned trade in donkeys and donkey products in a bid to save the beast of service from imminent extinction.
Tanzania Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa Majaliwa says a strategy for ensuring the protection and conservation of the donkey is being established as the ban on the slaughter of donkeys is enforced.
In a speech read for him by the Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Mashimba Ndaki during the 2022 Pan African Donkey Conference Majaliwa said that the donkey is very important to the rural economy of Tanzania hence the government will ensure its protection and preservation.
At meeting held at Kisengan International Conference Center in Dar-es-Salam, Tanzania, the Tanzania Prime Minister called on regional countries to also ban donkey trade in their jurisdictions so as not to create a route through which the trade could continue leading to the extinction of the donkey.
Experts in animal welfare are warning that the multi-billion dollar Ejiao industry that uses donkey skin which is boiled to produce the gelatine used in the production of Ejiao could wipe out the whole donkey population in Africa. It is estimated that the Ejiao industry currently requires approximately 4.8 million donkey skins annually which could wipe out the African total donkey population of 48 million in 10 years.
The Prime Minister further noted that the benefits from the donkey in supporting the rural economy are too great to be left to “those that are over-exploiting the donkey resource,” said Majaliwa adding that already Tanzania has taken measures aimed at protecting the donkey and conserving the beast of service.
He said that while the ban is enforced, among the measures being undertaken are; putting in place a strategy to create public awareness on the donkey as part of the main contributor to the rural economy; putting in place a budget to specifically deal with the production of donkeys; to establish breeding areas for donkey multiplication.
The Tanzania government is also undertaking a census of its livestock to ascertain the exact numbers, which the Prime Minister said is in a bid to ensure they plan well for the sustainable utilization of its resources as well as planning and to put in place measures in promotion of the donkey.
Donkeys are mostly used for transportation of goods to rural markets in Africa, used in fetching water for households as they are well suited to move through rough terrain and they are also hardy animals that can survive harsh environments that are seen in Africa.
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AUC wants the donkey protected for sustainable agriculture on the continent
By Judith Akolo
The African Union Commission says, over exploitation of the donkey that has seen an alarming reduction in the population of the beast of service on the continent, could disrupt efforts aimed at ensuring sustainable agriculture and food systems.
The Commissioner in charge of Agriculture Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment Josefa Sacko warns that communities living in the fragile environments such as the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands of Africa, which cover about 66% of the continent are at risk of losing a major component of their livelihoods in what they benefit from the donkey.
In a speech read for her by Prof. James Wabacha, an Animal Health Specialist based at the African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) at the 2022 Pan African Donkey Conference held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Amb. Sacko said that in the agriculture sector, “animals are central to production systems and their welfare is a key challenge in the delicate balance between their welfare and the socioeconomic demands.”
In the presentation made at the conference that also called for banning of trade in donkeys, Sacko said that donkeys play a critical role in rural communities for transport, water pulling for construction, farming and waste collection hence central to livelihoods and the communities sustainability and wellbeing.
She noted that even as donkeys “are considered as invisible workers and neglected species,” there is need for development of policies, strategies and legislations to ensure the preservation and conservation of the donkey.
“I encourage Member States and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to include donkeys as part of livestock in their respective national and regional livestock development components of their National Agriculture Investment Plans (NAIPs) and their regional agriculture investment plans (RAIP) as well as the national and regional CAADP compacts,” she advised.
While giving grim statistics, Sacko explained that 40% of the gross domestic product in the agriculture sector comes from livestock resources, on a continent in which 70% of the people live below the poverty line. She further averred that 66% of Africa is arid or semi-arid with over 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa living in the ASALs and are wholly dependent on the donkey for “transporting water to the homesteads, goods to the market and even building materials to the new environments in search of pasture and water for the other animals,” she added, “people living in ASALs have access to less that 1000 meters cubed of water per capita per year hence benefit from the donkey, as the animal plays a crucial role in collecting water for livestock and families in these dry areas.”
Saying that recent times have seen the deterioration and degradation of the environment leading to water stress with more people relying on fetching water for survival, “the donkey is a critical part of their lives.”
Sacko warned that if the donkey population continues to be decimated for export for their skin, women and children in the arid and semi arid lands “may have to take over the burden of carrying the water for the livestock and the family and where the family is too poor to afford motorized transport, the women and children will have to take over the burden of carrying their goods and trek on foot where they relied on the donkeys.”
Sacko expressed worry that disregard for animal welfare often leads to poor animal health and poor quality or contaminated animal-based food products, with resulting economic losses.
She called for the need to increased recognition of the link between animal welfare, productivity, incomes and livelihoods in subsistence and small scale production systems which are typical of the developing world.
“Concern for animal welfare is therefore intrinsically a concern for human wellbeing and animal productivity and entails an inclusive approach within the animal resource sector,” she said.
She appealed to member states of the Africa Union to embrace sustainable development and utilisation of animal resources with the consideration of animal welfare principles in order to realize the aspirations of the continental frameworks and agendas including the realization of the transformation of Agriculture in line with the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), Malabo commitments as well as Agenda 2063 of the Africa We Want of the Africa Union.
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Knowledge management is key to leveraging the agriculture sector in Africa
By Judith Akolo
Experts in food nutrition and knowledge management are saying that Africa is dependent on agriculture for its economic sustainability, hence there is need to ensure that the sector thrives.
The director of the Regional Centre against Hunger and Malnutrition (CERFAM) based in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, Patrick Texeira, avers that knowledge generation, sharing and overall, knowledge Management is key to Africa’s development.
He says that Africa has a plethora of good practices and innovations that have generated good results in addressing food insecurity and malnutrition, hence the need to make good practices readily available and accessible through their identification, documentation, replication, so as to create greater impact on agricultural development, food security and nutrition
Texeira notes that if the agriculture sector on the continent thrives it is two to four times more effective in the reduction of poverty, in comparison to other sectors.
“It is unfortunate, the continent is not on the right track to achieving goals of Agenda 2063, the Malabo Declaration, or the Sustainable Development (SDG) agenda,” he says and adds, “in fact projections by the UN, indicate that Africa will not be able to feed 60% of its population by 2025,” he adds, yet the agricultural economy is the main source of income for more than 33 million smallholder farmers in Africa.
Texeira says smallholder farmers mostly produce the staple food crops, “and even though, producing nearly 70% of the global food supply, they are amongst those left the most food insecure,” he told the 18th Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme Partnership Platform (CAADP PP) held via webinar.
While noting that on average, growth in the agriculture sector has shown to be two to four times more effective in the reduction of poverty, in comparison to other sectors, Texeira said that there is need for “the transformative power of knowledge management to leverage agriculture and food systems good practices and evidence-based solutions to end hunger and malnutrition in Africa.”
In his presentation, “The transformative power of Knowledge Management to leverage Agriculture and Food Systems good practices and evidence-based solutions to end hunger and malnutrition in Africa” Texeira said that knowledge management can support the achievement of CAADP as well as the Malabo Policy Learning Event (MAPLE) commitment through the promotion of good practices by: offering a space to create synergies with partners from other sectors, and, by presenting digital platforms which can support identification, dissemination, replication, and scaling-up of these good practices, “all in the hopes to learn from each other in order to build on the past successes and to excel towards future realisations,” he said.
The head of CERFAM which is Africa's leading hub for promoting good practices to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, noted that knowledge management can create an enabling environment for nutrition sensitive-agricultural activities and investment within the food-system, so as to improve food security and nutrition in Africa.
While agriculture sector has shown to be two to four times more effective in the reduction of poverty, in comparison to other sectors, “it is unfortunate, the continent is not on the right track to achieving goals of Agenda 2063, the Malabo Declaration, or the Sustainable Development (SDG) agenda,” he says and adds, “in fact projections by the UN, indicate that Africa will not be able to feed 60% of its population by 2025.”
He notes that the causes of hunger and malnutrition on the continent are not only due to lack of access to the right quantities but also the lack of access to quality food, “it is not only a question of increasing food production to ensure food security, but equally important is the types of foods consumed and the micronutrients they bear, so to also ensure nutrition security,” he advises.
He calls for agricultural transformation in order to provide for food, that is affordable, nutritious, healthy, and of quality, “thus providing food and nutrition security,” hence the need to design policies that are nutrition-sensitive.
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Anglican Archbishop Dr. Jackson Ole Sapit calls for a ban on donkey trade
By Judith Akolo
The Anglican Church of Kenya, Archbishop of the Right Reverend Dr. Jackson Ole Sapit who spoke at the Pan African Donkey Conference, called for an end to trade in donkeys saying that the donkey was never meant for trade, but as a mode of transport to aid humanity.
Noting that the origin of the donkey is in Africa in Ethiopia and Somalia, Dr. Ole Sapit said that the trade and practice of eating donkey meat is alien to Africa because the donkey was never meant for food in Africa.
“Man was given a special mandate to have dominion and as a steward in the garden and not to deplete God’s creation but to make them thrive,” said Archbishop Ole Sapit and added, “donkeys now in Africa and the future depend on what we as human beings are going to do about them, they are entirely in our hands, we have capacity to destroy and extinct them but we also have the capacity to preserve them and protect them for posterity.”
Noting that the donkey’s home is Africa having been first domesticated in Ethiopia and present day Somalia as an animal to aid humankind, the Primate said that the donkey is key to Africa’s rural economy as it is mostly used in transportation goods to the markets for trade, “it helps human beings in times of distress, when they are running away from calamities including drought, by carrying the luggage through difficult terrains.”
At the meeting held at Kisenga Conference Center in Dar es Salaam, the Archbishop said that the donkey has been a fundamental part of the economy of humankind right from creation “of humanity, in the economy of the world and even today our rural economy depends on the donkey,” said Dr. Ole Sapit and added, “the donkey to rural Maasailand was used to draw water and take it home, to carry wares to the market as well as carry building materials for the construction of dwelling places.”
Dr. Ole Sapit said that introduction of a market for slaughtering donkeys in Africa, is foreign to the African culture, “it is not part of us, we were not given the donkey to eat as we were given other animals to use as food,” he said, and added, “we were given the donkey to aid humankind how then can we afford to extinct the only animal whose purpose is to aid us”? he wondered.
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AU-IBAR: High demand for donkey skin is driving the donkey into extinction
By Judith Akolo
The African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) Director Dr. Nick Nwankpa is warning that the rising demand for donkey skin on the global market could drive the beast of burden into extinction.
Speaking at the 2022 Pan African Donkey conference that began today in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, with the theme, “Donkeys now in Africa and to the Future” Dr. Nwankpa said that the donkey supports livelihoods and generate income for mostly the low income households on the continent, “despite this valid services, the donkey is viewed as a poor man’s resource,” said Dr. Nwankpa.
The AU-IBAR Director raised concern that the donkey is neglected in the livestock conservation and development policies in most African countries, he called for an urgent need to include donkeys in animal resources and food security frameworks, “particularly as their numbers are increasingly threatened by the global donkey skin trade,” he warned.
Dr. Nwankpa notes that AU-IBAR as the unique specialized technical agency of the African Union Commission (AUC) is charged with coordinating the development and the utilization of animal resources for the wellbeing of African citizens “has come together with Brooke and other partners, to convene this conference to arouse Africa to the threats facing the donkey population on the continent,” he said and added, “It is an opportunity for all of us to arrive at a common position on the exploitation of the donkey in the continent.
Adding that the decision from the 2022 Pan African Donkey Conference will guide the policies and strategies to preserve the donkey as a critical resource for the African Community.
He lauded the involvement of various stakeholders and the strategic partnership in advancing animal welfare agenda and the commitments to improve the livelihoods of the African Community “that has led to the development and endorsement of the Animal Welfare Strategy for Africa by AUC Head States and Summit in February 2018 and the establishment and the operationalization of the Africa Platform for Animal Welfare (APAW) whose secretariat is hosted at AU-IBAR,” said Dr. Nwankpa.
The Regional Director, Brooke East Africa Dr. Raphael Kinoti while noting that there are 47 million donkeys in the world said that the donkey is an important animal to especially the lower rungs of the population in Africa with some societies having a saying that, “a woman without a donkey becomes the donkey herself,”
The Brooke Ethiopia Programme Manager Dr. Yohannes Kassim warned that the donkey population in Africa is under threat due to the high demand for Ejiao or gelatine developed from donkey hide, that used as an ingredient in the traditional medicine of China, “it is estimated that the Ejiao industry currently requires approximately 4.8 million donkey skins annually which could wipe out the African total donkey population of 48 million is appropriate measures are not taken by all stakeholders,” said Kassim.
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