4 December 2019

Brooke East Africa hosts conference on donkey skin trade

Donkey Skin Conference

Brooke East Africa, a Brooke affiliate based in Kenya, ran a two day conference in Nairobi to raise awareness of donkey skin trade. Fuelled by a demand from China, it is having a devastating impact on donkeys and their owners. The theme of the conference was ‘Donkeys better alive’.

The skins are used to produce ‘ejiao’, a gelatin used in traditional Chinese medicine. Brooke’s CEO Petra Ingram travelled to the conference and was part of the opening keynote, saying:

“We know over the last 20 years there has been a significant in reduction of the number of donkeys in China and they’re no longer able to supply the demand for the product, ejiao. We think they’re looking for nearly 50% of the skins needed each year outside of China.” 

Almost 200 delegates attended, including representatives from the East Africa Legislative Assembly, which has the power to write laws that multiple East African countries, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), that helps bring together countries within the region, so if a ban is implemented it could be easier to spread it. This widespread issue attracted delegates from Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda, Senegal and Burkina Faso to discuss the issue. Over the two days the delegates heard from people in Kenya and beyond who have had their donkeys stolen, stripping them of their means of earning a living. 

“We are slaughtering the donkeys at the rate of five times the rate of production and that means that is not sustainable.”

Fred Ochieng, CEO Brooke East Africa

donkeys in kenya

Tanzanian farmer Grace Saruni spoke, saying that donkey theft has led to farmers sometimes not having donkeys to plough the land.

“Since 2016, 2017 and 2018 until now, because of the rampant donkey theft; we sometimes do not have donkeys to plough your land. We’d also use them to travel long distances to the river to fetch water; now you have to put the bucket over your head and travel that same distance.”

There are four slaughterhouses operating in Kenya that have exported over 300,000 donkey skins in the last three years. The exponential demand has meant that donkey owners in Kenya have had their donkeys stolen, and illegal smuggling is taking place from neighbouring countries.

Brooke East Africa’s CEO, Fred Ochieng said at the conference:

“We are slaughtering the donkeys at the rate of five times the rate of production and that means that is not sustainable.”

group photo at the conference

Research by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Institute (KALRO) has predicted that if the trend of slow population growth and increasing slaughter continues, donkeys in Kenya could be wiped out by 2023.

Brooke is calling for a ban on the trade of donkey skins and associated products from Kenya and a crackdown on cross-border smuggling of donkeys into Kenya for their skins. As a result of the conference, Brooke East Africa was able to agree a number of resolutions and recommendations, focussing on collaboration with other countries to make a ban possible and improving their border security. They will also get a clearer idea of local and national donkey populations to try to curb the decline in numbers, and continue to raise awareness and help communities to protect their donkeys from theft.

The full resolutions were published on both the United Nations Environment website and the IGAD website