Kenya - Brooke East Africa

We have funded programmes in Kenya since 2001, and in 2013, Nairobi became the headquarters of our East Africa programme, or Brooke East Africa. We’ve expanded across Eastern Africa and now provide support to a number of local partners in Kenya and in the region who make an incredible difference to equine welfare.

Kenya at a glance

Population: 51 million
Percentage of population living below the international poverty line: 36%
Number of working donkeys: 1.8 million donkeys

Sources: World Bank 2015/18


A large proportion of Kenya’s 1.8 million donkeys are found in semi-arid areas where they are used by women to transport water and firewood. Others are used in agricultural areas to transport farm produce to markets and households and in urban areas for transporting commercial goods.

Despite the heavy reliance on equines in Kenya, they are often affected by poor welfare including wounding and bruising from misuse and abuse, malnutrition, dehydration, diseases, hoof abnormalities, eye conditions and respiratory problems.

Donkey owner, Stephen Kimiri, loading his cart with water

Donkey Skin Trade

One of the biggest issues Brooke East Africa is currently tackling is the donkey skin trade.

Hundreds of thousands of donkeys are slaughtered and exported from Africa annually, causing donkey numbers across the continent to decimate. They are driven by demand from China, as hides are boiled to produce ‘ejiao’, a gelatin used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Kenya is at the epicentre of the donkey crisis. Up to 1,000 donkeys in the country are killed daily for their skins, and more are killed illegally, often horrifically butchered in the bush or on the street. Around 60 donkeys a week were stolen from owners across Kenya in 2017. Thought to be in part due to Brooke East Africa's efforts, this reduced to just over 20 a week in 2018, but it’s feared this will rise again with the ongoing increasing demand. The theft pushes families into poverty as their main source of income is taken.

Learn more about the donkey skin trade or view our downloadable PDF.

What are we doing to help?

  • Working on the frontline with donkey-owning communities. Brooke East Africa and their partners have helped to set up over 400 groups with over 9,000 members.  
  • Funding community-led initiatives to protect their donkeys.
  • Adding resources on the ground to expand lobbying and community engagement.
  • Mobilising communities and help them gather evidence and present it to their governments.
  • Collaborating with other animal focussed organisations to learn from their experiences. 
  • Alerting the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to get the issue on the worldwide agenda.

Other things we're working on:

Our goal is to improve the welfare of 521,000 working equines in East Africa by 2021 through:

  • Working in urban areas with young people who use donkeys to transport goods by cart.
  • Working in semi-arid areas with women donkey owners who use their equines for domestic purposes.
  • Working with children, who interact with donkeys on a daily basis at home or in their communities, to increase their knowledge, awareness and participation in donkey welfare.
  • Working with communities affected by low rainfall to increase their preparedness and resilience for donkey care during times of drought.
  • Working with governments to put in place policies that lead to improved animal welfare.

Snapshot of our work

Donkey Care Club at Kiamanyeki Primary School

Monica runs the Donkey Care Club at Kiamanyeki Primary School in Mwea, Kenya. Donkey Care Clubs for school children in Kenya teaches children how to respect and care for the animals their families depend on.

Donkey Care Clubs

Brooke has been running Donkey Care Clubs for several years. They are designed to engage children in improving the welfare of their families’ equine animals. Primary school children are trained on donkey welfare and then pass on their learning to their families and general public. The clubs are a key approach to creating generational change in how communities view their working animals.

Community Action Groups

Together with our East Africa partners, we work to change communities’ attitudes and practices associated with poor welfare and to promote skills such as correct harnessing and handling. Establishing community action groups is an important aspect of this work. The groups put donkey owners in touch with trained health service providers and allow them to support each other in caring for their animals, to participate in group saving schemes and to engage with local authorities.

Drought Preparedness

In recent years, drought has been an ongoing challenge in parts of Kenya.

We work with affected communities to improve water management and preservation and to develop new ways of managing fodder. This alleviates the impact of drought on equines and enables the families and communities who rely on them to recover from shocks more quickly.

Donkeys carrying produce during Kenyan drought

Training service providers

We provide training and support to local health service providers and community-based animal health workers. Topics covered by our training include equine welfare & handling, pain recognition & management and donkey diseases.

In addition, we connect donkey owners with health service providers so their animals can get good quality healthcare.

We are currently recruiting training service providers. To register, please fill out the form below.

National Donkey Day

National Donkey Day is celebrated on 17 May every year, bringing together policy makers, animal health service providers, owners, users and the general public to raise awareness about the importance of donkeys to the community and how best to care for them.

Three water carrying donkeys, Mwea, Kenya

Related News

Brooke research into the impact of the trade on livelihoods in Kenya - presented at the 7th Pan Commonwealth Veterinary Conference in March 2019.

Thousands of donkeys are being stolen, abused and slaughtered to meet the demand for their hides.

Kisima, a widower with nine children, woken by donkey thiefs in the middle of the night.

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