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AUC wants the donkey protected for sustainable agriculture on the continent

Posted by JUDITH DORA AKOLO on 03 December 2022 4:05 PM CAT

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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