A donkey to many people is just but another animal that does not raise any interest or thought. In fact, to some it is a nuisance.
However, there are those for whom this much misunderstood animal means everything. To them, it is a beast of burden that needs to be revered and treated with respect. It is a provider, supporter and friend.
In fact, according to a recent study by Brooke East Africa, some donkey owners are earning upwards of Ksh 213,979 annually on average, from each donkey, or Ksh17,890 per month. For some residents of Kamara location in Molo, Nakuru, the donkey is a lifeline and a pillar of support.
It is what they rely on for their daily bread and sustenance and they have a lot of respect and love for the animals.
“In over 20 years, I have never lifted a hoe to dig a shamba (plot of land) but instead I employ farmhands. Through my work with donkeys I have done great things; I built my house, bought two grade cows at Ksh96,000 each and two plots at an average price of Ksh80,000 each, while my children have never slept hungry or lacked school fees,” says Mr Samuel Mwangi aka Mukurino, when Smart Farmer made a visit to the area.
Aside from earning an income from his three donkeys that do transportation, the 46-year-old father of four is a farrier, a specialist in equine hoof care, having been trained in a programme funded by the Brooke East Africa in partnership with Farming Systems Kenya.
A farrier specialises in the trimming and balancing of horses’ hooves and other equine animals. In Mukurino’s case, caring and trimming of donkey hooves in the area are his specialty; and he does it lovingly. When James Mwangi came to Molo from the very remote areas of Kericho, he had never seen a donkey.
On seeing how hard he toiled, his neighbours advised him to buy one and he did. He has never regretted it. The donkey helps him feed his cows by ferrying water and fodder, and he is also able to ferry manure and transport produce from the forest.
The animal also makes him a handsome amount when he hires it out. “When my wife died I had to wash clothes, cook, till the land and feed the children and cows all on my own. But my donkey has made all this possible by somehow taking the role of my wife in things like fetching and carrying,” says James.
For women, donkeys add value in their day-to-day lives by helping them with labour and other household chores like transporting water, firewood and essential items for the whole household and income generation, as well as increased social capital. “I don’t have a husband,” Esther Ngeno, whose donkey also fetches an income for her says, “but for me my donkey has more than adequately filled that role. It brings food to my table and has helped me educate my six children. It is a valuable asset to me,” she adds.
For Ms Lucy Rono in her late sixties, her donkey helps her fetch firewood, water and food for her cows. Based on these and many other documented cases, it is clear that the donkey is indeed a pillar, preserving livelihoods and empowering the communities within which it resides.
That is why reports by the study, The Involuntary Loss of Donkeys in Kenya: A Rapid Assessment of De-terminants and Socio-economic Effect carried out by Brooke East Africa on the sharp increase of involuntary losses of donkeys in Kenya, is raising concerns.
According to the study, the upsurge of loss mostly through theft has been especially felt in Bomet, Kajiado, Narok and Nakuru with some donkey owners believing that the involuntary loss of donkeys was as a result of normal theft.
FULL STORY AND MORE PICTURES INSIDE SMART FARMER MAGAZINE ISSUE 36