By Judith Akolo KBC & NECJOGHA
Low fertility rates, minimal attention and management by farmers as well as the recent commercial slaughter of donkeys for export of skin and meat threatens to drive the donkey into extinction.
In his presentation to the 2022 Pan African Donkey conference held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Tixon Nzunda, said that in Africa, “the donkey as a draught animal, has uses including transportation of goods, farm inputs and outputs, water, firewood and it is also a means of transport in some societies,” he said adding that, “this is so because the donkey is capable of passing through bad terrain where motorised transport like vehicles and motorcycles may not be able to access.”
The Permanent Secretary however noted that despite the importance of the draught animal, the donkey is among the disregarded animals in the livestock sector and today some farmers are hoodwinked into selling at US$ 132 which is equivalent to Tshs 300,000.
Nzunda explained that the reason the Tanzanian government has banned trade in donkeys and their products is because, in 2014 the government issued permits to two companies to start commercial abattoirs for donkeys with conditions that, “they would establish breeding farms, contract donkey farmers, donkey ranches and slaughter of restricted number of donkeys per day while strictly abiding to animal welfare issues,” he said adding that, “Unfortunately, all these conditions were not fulfilled and in 2022, the Government banned of the live donkey trade, donkey slaughter and trade of donkey skin and meat.”
He said that among the challenges facing the productive capacity and impede the harnessing of the full potential of the donkey as draught animal is the inadequate knowledge and skills of farmers on the use of donkeys, poor animal husbandry practices, poor genetic potential and minimal investment in supporting the donkey production.
“Most donkeys in Africa suffer from inbreeding, poor nutrition, inadequate health and veterinary services,” he said adding that donkeys are not given attention they need by the society.
During the ban, the Tanzanian government has put in place measures to help promote production as well as regulate donkeys within the livestock sector by reviewing the Livestock Policy of 2006 to include policy statements that promote donkey production, improve breeding and increase extension services on draught animals; Tanzania is also legislating on the donkey production, trade, slaughter, welfare and general uses of draught animals in the country; “The Ministry is developing guidelines management, breeding, trade, welfare and general production of donkeys.”
Among the key measures is the move by the Ministry of Livestock to initiate donkey identification and registration exercise through use of electronic ear tags, “so as to be able to map the distribution of donkeys in the country,” said Nzunda.
He further explained that the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries has formulated the five years (2022/23 to 2026/27) Livestock Sector Transformation Plan (LSTP) 2022 which sets out livestock-sector investment areas. Under the plan, the Tanzania government is setting up productive high-quality livestock breeds; water, pasture and animal feeds; animal health; extension; livestock research and training services; value addition of livestock products; and national ranching company done through the public, private sector partnerships.
He appealed to investors to take advantage of the provision in the LSTP and invest in the livestock sector “including donkey production considering the potential for a market for donkeys and donkey products like skin and meat.
The Permanent Secretary appealed to the African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU –IBAR), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) the Animal Welfare and Animal Rights Societies to cooperate and promote donkey production. He urged researchers to carry out more research on the donkey so as to come up with ways improving the donkey fertility in order to increase their numbers.