People often ask me what I actually do, which is a bit of a hard question as the job is very varied, but one of my favourite places is in the field, with the team. Nowhere is this more true than in Kenya, where we can go on Safari for up to two weeks. Nice word ‘Safari’, conjures up thoughts of lodges, stunning views and magnificent wildlife, but the truth is a little more down to earth. Safari is just Swahili for ‘travelling’.
In November 2011 the Sanctuary's harness makers from Ethiopia, Egypt and Kenya came together in Ethiopia for a trailblazing new course on harness, cart design and donkey behaviour, pulled together by our amazing harness expert, Chris Garrett. It was based in Hawassa where donkeys are widely used to pull carts, and where their condition is often very poor, because of over work, overloading, beatings and poor harness.
A water storage tank at Daaba near Isiolo in Kenya has been decorated with pictures of donkeys and welfare messages after children at a local school entered a competition to create the designs, to help encourage a sense of community ownership as well as promoting good donkey care. The winning designs themselves were painted by a professional artist.
As Kenya’s farmers recover from one of the worst droughts for more than 10 years, their donkeys are taking much of the strain. Because so many oxen died during the water shortage, the farmers have had to put their surviving donkeys to work ploughing the land. Our team based in Kenya have been helping these farmers keep their donkeys as healthy as possible. Field officer Wycliffe Gwatemba told me about his meeting with one man whose donkeys are saving him and his family from severe hardship.
With International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day taking place within the same week, the Sidmouth-based Donkey Sanctuary is acknowledging the work of a Kenyan business woman in improving welfare conditions for her donkey and her family.
I usually keep my ramblings pretty general, but this time I'd like to tell you about a lady I met last week. I'm in Kenya at the moment, looking at the progress made with the harness since I was here in December last year.
During the week we've been away altering carts, meeting donkey owners and giving out harness for them to try. The harness has already been tested over the last six months and during the weekends Amos, the Kenyan Harness Co-ordinator, has been taking me around our original "Guinea Pigs". One of these was a lady called Ruth.