Donkey theft in Kenya - impact on women

Credit: Alex McBride

Margaret lives in Olimtie, near Narok, Kenya. She uses her donkeys mainly for domestic chores; for collecting water and going to the market, as well as for help on her husband’s farm. “The donkey is like my entire life because if you look around, the donkeys all work for me. If I want a cow, the donkey will bring it to me. I use my donkeys for the house chores, I will use it for business to make money… So the donkey is like my entire life, it helps me in so many ways.”

A sharp increase in recent years of trade in donkey meat and skins is driving demand for the widespread slaughter of these animals. As prices are driven upwards, black-market activities are also increasing, supplied by illegal activities of rustling and illegal slaughter. Consequently, there has been a massive increase in donkey theft in many parts of Kenya, attributed to legal and illegal slaughter for skin. 3 slaughter houses have been licensed in Kenya since April 2016, slaughtering approximately 400 donkeys a day and fuelling donkey theft. With a nearby slaughterhouse and many cases of donkey theft amongst her community, Margaret is understandably worried. “I would love to tell all the women, since we do not have cows, the donkeys are ours."

Let us protect our donkeys because they are the source of our daily lives

Credit: Alex McBride

“If my donkeys get stolen, I’m the one affected because I will have to go to the river myself to fetch water with a Jeri can… Water is important to human beings and the donkeys help us to get that water. If I lose a donkey I suffer a lot because one Jeri can of water is not enough for me. In the house you need to have 100 litres of water so that you’re able to complete your house work… that’s why you would find my kids are dirty if there’ s a shortage of water, and you would find the house is dirt... You find that sickness start coming into the family because you know water is important to human beings. Water is used for everything, you will find that everything is constrained because even the dog drinks that water.”

Donkeys are incredibly important to women like Margaret, relieving the domestic burden and allowing them to earn some money as well. During times of drought, they become even more crucial to the families who depend on them. “The way donkeys have been going missing, I see a lot of women depressed.” Margaret is in a women’s donkey welfare group, facilitated by Brooke East Africa’s partner, Farming Systems Kenya (FSK). Many women within the group, including Margaret’s sister wife, have had their donkeys stolen recently. If one of the women in Margaret’s group loses a donkey, the other members make sure she is able to get water.

There are others who have lost their donkeys, so at times like these we chip in to help. A donkey carries four Jeri cans so I will give that person one Jeri can of water. We help each other like that.

Credit: Alex McBride

Helped by FSK, Margaret’s donkey welfare group have been running a finance system and using some of the money to put up fences for their donkeys, to stop them wandering off and to prevent thefts. “You see if my neighbor joins the group, they too will look after my donkeys and I theirs and so on, so cases of theft will reduce in this area because of the unity in the group if they join”

“We should have a proper fence in the homestead. We should have proper security, you yourself should be able to guard your donkeys… also inform your neighbours because a donkey cannot be taken from above, it will pass through a path so everyone should be on the lookout so that you even tell your neighbour… So people should not despair, let’s fence our homesteads… We come together in groups, we contribute money and fence our homes… Because of working with FSK, I know how to fence the farm and take care of my donkeys.”

In 2017, Margaret and her Donkey Welfare Group entered Brooke’s Linda Punda competition, looking for innovative ideas on how to protect donkeys from theft. “In this competition we came up as a group and said to ourselves that we are going to win this… we started planning and the first thing we said we would do is to build a house for our donkeys, the house will be built inside the cows shed so it will be separated.

The second thing we will do is to hire a watchman, for the watchman we build him a house which will not be too far from the Homestead, it will be near. That was our plan, to build a house near the cow shed. The guard that we will hire, we will pay him and not because he’s sleeping with the cows but we’ll pay him on the side so that if our donkeys get lost we’ll know where to start following up from. He will get his salary depending on the donkey, he will guard at night and during the day. That was our plan, we were to buy nails, wood, fence and iron sheets so that we are able to protect our donkeys.”