17 May 2020

National Donkey Day Message By Brooke East Africa CEO

Brooke East Africa CEO Fred Ochieng shares a message for National Donkey Day, 17 May in Kenya.

Time flies! Today, I remember with nostalgia the inaugural national donkey day that was organised by KENDAT in partnership with Brooke on 17 May 2006. The words of Mr Anant Shah, a great advocate for animal welfare, who sponsored the donkey camp at the time together with Mr Manoj Shah of Osho Chemicals Ltd, still ring in my ears: "We must always care for and recognise these hardworking animals for their contribution to livelihoods". The then-local Member of Parliament, Honorable Kuria Kanyingi, immediately proposed an annual event to honour donkeys, and Mr Mahamud Omar, the producer for Mtunze Punda Akutunze radio program, mobilised the media to carry the message. The rest is now history.

No doubt, there have been many gains as well as challenges but many people now admit that donkeys are indeed true partners in making a difference to lives of communities and rural economy. Many collaborators and supporters, including the governments in the region, have lightened the load in ensuring that donkeys enjoy better welfare. Brooke East Africa is currently partnering with nine organisations in five East African countries. We are reaching about 400,000 donkeys that support livelihoods of close to 3.5 million people directly. This involves working with about 240 veterinary and animal health professions to provide the much-needed good quality and affordable animal health services.

This year marks the 15th consecutive year of national donkey day celebrations. Unfortunately, it is at a time when COVID-19 is not merely a health crisis but in reality a human crisis affecting every facet of our lives. Who would have imagined that countries could literally lock down to control the disease? While there are debates that COVID-19 may have originated from wildlife consumption, it is nonetheless critical that we now reassess how we live and interact with animals. This is why Brooke East Africa and our partners are keen on one heath and one welfare in making a difference to the welfare of donkeys and livelihoods of vulnerable communities that depend on them. In others words, it is about the interconnectedness of the animals, the people and the environment.

There is no doubt that the combined effect of COVID-19, flooding and locust infestation will have a calamitous effect, but they will surely pass away. For many communities, donkeys will be the key asset they need to bounce forward in building their resilience and livelihoods. This is the essence of our theme for this year: Donkey Power for Resilient Livelihoods.

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals (read donkeys) are treated.

Mahatma Gandhi

Furthermore, this year is also special because the Government of Kenya recognised that donkey slaughter for export in the last four years impacted negatively on the donkey population. Consequently, the Cabinet Secretary, Hon Peter Munya revoked the export licenses of the four slaughterhouses. We are very grateful to him: a Minister who truly empathises with the plight of vulnerable communities and their donkeys! At last, Kenya can be judged favourably through the words of Mahatma Gandhi that "the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals (read donkeys) are treated".  Donkey-owning communities in Kenya can now rest easy, even as concerns remain about the two licensed donkey slaughterhouses in Tanzania. In the meantime, we ought to remember that life is just as precious to animals as it is to us. So, let us all join efforts to recognise and improve the welfare of donkeys.