They say Arusha is the Geneva of Africa. As the five nations of the East African Community grow closer with a common visa policy and the promise of a single currency in a few years, Arusha’s importance as the seat of the Community is growing and thanks to its position in the shadow of mighty Mount Meru, the lush micro-climate means the shady boulevards of town are lined with well-kept greenery and beautiful purple-flowering jacaranda trees. Rather than being Geneva-like, my short bus ride across the border from Nairobi (where I have been visiting Donkey Sanctuary Kenya) was more like the United Nations on wheels. As seems to be the norm on the average African bus trip, it didn’t take long for everyone to get to know everyone else: a South African was travelling to Moshi to run the Kilimanjaro marathon; an Indian lady was heading to see her grandparents; a Rwandan couple were off on their holidays to the coast; a Chinese man was travelling to Dodoma on business… and a lanky Brit was off to talk about donkeys with the Arusha Society for the Protection of Animals (ASPA) as they held their annual general meeting.
After saying goodbye to my travelling companions, I headed for the hotel in town where ASPA were holding their review and met their chairman, members of the board, staff and some of their members and supporters. Livingstone Masija, ASPA’s project manager, ran through the organisation’s work, 75% of which is related to the donkeys of Arusha district. Livingstone and his team work with donkeys, owners and users in the markets around the town to improve the communication between humans and animals and reduce beatings. They also work with owners to teach them how to make low-cost pack saddles, which protect the animals from the sharp sticks, bags of charcoal and baskets of produce that they carry to the markets. ASPA also keenly networks with the other Tanzanian welfare organisations; as Livingstone says: ‘When we are all building the same house, we need to share the bricks.’
Livingstone and the ASPA team were very keen for me to take a message of thanks back to the UK. The Donkey Sanctuary has been funding and supporting ASPA’s work for several years and we have increased their skills with harness trainings, helped them to attend key Tanzanian welfare forums, given other technical support and provided funds for all the materials and other resources necessary for them to make a huge difference to the lives of donkeys. So let me say a huge thank you to all the staff and supporters of The Donkey Sanctuary on behalf of ASPA’s donkey welfare ambassadors in the Geneva of Africa.