Building Capacities Through Animal Welfare in Kenya

In the pastoralist district of Mandera in Northern Kenya, donkeys play an essential part of people’s livelihoods. They are essential in pulling carts to markets, to go and collect water many miles away, collect firewood and are crucial in the thriving trade between Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. In Elwak, Takaba, Rhamu and Mandera, it is estimated that about 2,000 households derive up to 50% of their income from transport operations involving donkeys. In Mandera alone there are an estimated 191,664 donkeys.

In times of drought donkeys play a vital role, as Pastoralist Adan Abdirahiman said many of their livestock have died and donkeys are their only hope of earning money – through collecting and selling firewood and water “My donkey is vital because it carries water from this shallow well 16 kilometres back home.”

However, donkeys are often neglected because of their low status and their ability for productive work is constrained by lack of proper feeding and watering, lack of appropriate and affordable harnessing systems, an absence of suitable and welfare sensitive carts, negative cultural beliefs and animal mistreatment like hitting. Poor feeding and watering and harnessing is another obvious constraint. This has led to deteriorating body conditions and animals are becoming more susceptible to diseases. It is estimated that over 75% of all the donkeys covered by the project in Mandera have some sort of disease or infection.

Practical Action is working with animal welfare charity The Brooke to improve the lives of donkeys by changing management practices and care for these animals. In turn this is leading to better animal health and productivity and therefore better incomes for pastoralists.

So far, Practical action has trained over 110 community based animal health workers (CBAHWs) in Mandera to diagnose and treat common diseases and they also play a role in disease reporting and community mobilisation. Locally based animal health workers are able to contact Practical Action’s trained vet if there is anything that comes up which they are unable to treat.

Also open days and mobile clinics are conducted regularly to help address donkey welfare and create a more caring attitudes towards donkeys to improve donkey based livelihoods. Education is also taking place through religious organisations and local radio stations to better attitudes and awareness of donkey welfare and how this can better livelihoods and raise productivity. Donkey owners now understand the linkages between the welfare of their animal and the success of their business. Practical Action is also supporting Equine Savings and Investment Groups, 56 groups have been set up for donkey owners to increase their capacity through loans to expand their businesses. If this pilot phase is successful it could be replicated all over Kenya.

At the same time, Practical Action works with communities to identify and then train people on alternative income generating activities like donkey powered transport for firewood, water and crop produce, or becoming donkey cart artisans and harness makers. This is also helping local communities by diversifying livelihoods and creating extra incomes.

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