It isn’t easy for outsiders to really understand the lives of donkeys and the people who rely on them. And without understanding and building a relationship with local communities, it is next-to-impossible to bring about improvements in welfare that will continue after the outsiders have moved on. With the Donkey Sanctuary Kenya’s (DSK) team based in Nakuru town, I spent today with the people of Kagoto village who rely on donkeys as we walked in their shoes to see how their lives, and those of their donkeys, are interwoven.
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Although the journey is short from the Donkey Sanctuary Kenya’s Nakuru office to Subukia, a small town on Kenya’s Rift Valley floor, it is also quite beautiful. As we bounced along the potholed road from town, the walls of the mighty Rift Valley towered up on either side of the road to frame acid-green tea plantations, regimentally-spaced coffee bushes and all manner of dusty little shops and businesses from open-air blacksmiths to painted wooden cafes filled with white plastic chairs.
Our international teams are invaluable in our efforts to improve the welfare of donkeys around the world and every single individual’s contribution is appreciated. But today, in honour of International Women’s Day, we would like to give special recognition to the role of the women in our overseas programmes – from harness makers and accountants to community education officers and vets. Their contribution, whether working directly with donkeys and communities or supporting field staff in administration duties, is incredible and we would not have the same impact without their help.
Donkey welfare could soon be part of the school curriculum in Kenya thanks to The Donkey Sanctuary’s work to lobby the Kenyan authorities as part of a current review.
The charity’s team in Kenya is working with other welfare organisations to have donkey welfare and animal welfare more broadly included on the new national schools’ curriculum to come into force in classrooms across Kenya from 2016
The Sanctuary will play a major part in designing the new curriculum with education officer Josiah Ojwang part of the taskforce shaping the plans.
On the small island of Lamu, off the coast of Kenya, a short boat ride takes you from the airport to town – and the very first thing that every visitor notices as they climb up the harbour-wall steps is that the ‘traffic’ on the island comes solely in the four-legged variety with barely a wheel to be seen. The island’s population of around 3,000 donkeys is relied upon for pretty much all forms of transport and has been tended to by The Donkey Sanctuary for over 25 years.
A chance encounter at Nairobi’s Wilson airport has just highlighted to me the strength of Donkey Sanctuary Kenya’s (DSK) networking and advocacy for donkey welfare. I am currently at about 22,000 feet, heading out to DSK’s centre on Lamu island with Josiah, the Education Officer from DSK, and after a stunning take-off across Nairobi National Park (think of an aerial view of giraffe and zebra herds – quite a treat), our tiny plane is flying mercifully smoothly.
Earlier this week, we talked about the Colloquium on Working Equids that our team attended in London. The purpose of the colloquium was to gather together people involved with working equines to share information from around the world and improve knowledge across the board. The Donkey Sanctuary was one of the four equine charities sponsoring the event and our UK International Team was joined by over 40 people from our partner organisations around the world, with representatives from Africa, Asia and the Americas.
‘Welcome to Mlolongo,’ said Amos, Harness Officer at Donkey Sanctuary Kenya, as we turned off the Mombasa Road.
I was visiting the small but burgeoning township of Mlolongo on the edge of Nairobi to meet with Daniel, a donkey owner who you may remember from our Winter Newsletter last year. Along with many other workers, Daniel and his donkeys transport water from the nearby Syokimau Dam to town to facilitate building work.
Now, I’ve heard of schools fostering donkeys and I’ve heard of schools which ‘Adopt a Donkey’ through the Sanctuary’s scheme but up until today, I had never heard of donkeys being the ones to start such a relationship.
On my last full day with the Donkey Sanctuary Kenya team for this trip, I drove with Josiah to Kumpa School on the outskirts of Kajiado town (towards the Tanzanian border from Nairobi).
At a community event in Kenya this week, I met Joseph, whose story highlighted how donkey and human welfare are very much linked when donkeys and people work together. Joseph is from a remote, rural area of Kenya where he struggled to make ends meet. He saved up as much as he could and moved to Nairobi five years ago where he used his savings to buy two 10-year-old donkeys from a friend. Without knowing much about the animals, he started a business transporting water by cart.