Donkey owning communities need to be involved and participate in an organised manner for a positive change to be realised towards donkey welfare. KENDAT through the Heshimu Punda Programme has been working closely with donkey owners in eight counties around the Mount Kenya region to inculcate positive knowledge, attitude and practices toward donkey welfare.
This is being achieved through:
1) Training on good animal husbandry practises
Donkey owners and users need to know how to care for donkeys as they work with them. KENDAT is committed to disseminating knowledge and skills through practical training on donkey welfare, husbandry and management to promote donkey welfare. Since 2001, the project has trained over 35,000 donkey owners across the area of operation through one on one and group trainings, use of donkey welfare champions (training of trainers), use of radio programmes on national and local radio stations and use of bulk SMS messaging system.
2) Strengthening donkey welfare groups
Donkey owners and users need to be well organised for easy dissemination of information and mobilization. KENDAT mobilized donkey owners and users to form donkey welfare groups and county level community based organizations (CBOs) and community champions. Currently, KENDAT is working with 4 CBOs based in Nyandarua, Kirinyaga, Meru and Nairobi counties and more than 110 groups which are spearheading donkey welfare improvements in Nairobi, Kiambu, Nyandarua, Laikipia, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Embu and Kirinyaga counties. The groups have a membership of over 3,500 members.
3) Donkey care clubs (DCC)
A child’s mind is developed majorly by what they see, hear or what they are told at that early stage. KENDAT uses this ideology by creating Donkey Care Clubs in primary schools to instil the culture of tender care for animals to school going children at an early stage so that a generational change is realized. There are 44 Donkey Care Clubs with a membership of 1,320 pupils from Nyandarua, Kiambu, Kirinyaga and Meru counties. This number grew from 4 clubs with 240 pupils in 2008. Every year the schools graduate over 500 pupils from class 8 equipped with knowledge on animal welfare and ready to become ambassadors of donkey welfare.
4) Behaviour change through football
Football is one of the most popular and loved games in the world by young people and therefore provides an opportunity to reach out to them easily. KENDAT is using this platform through Donkey Welfare Football Tournament to engage urban youths with the aim of curbing drug and substance abuse which is closely linked to mistreatment of working donkeys. The tournament is currently run in Mwea, Kirinyaga County and benefits 300 young male donkey owners and users.
5) Donkey protection
Since the legalization of donkey abattoir in Kenya in the year 2016, donkey owning communities have lost more than 300,000 donkeys through theft, bush slaughter, and sale to slaughterhouses. This has resulted in many donkey owners and users losing their only source of livelihood. KENDAT, through the Donkey Protection Initiative, is working with these communities to protect their donkeys by building secure and lockable donkey shelters through a cost-sharing basis. Through the initiative, the programme has built 110 shelter in Kiambu, Nyandarua, and Kirinyaga counties, both individual and communal donkey shelters, sheltering 296 donkeys
6) Community based natural donkey breeding project
Donkeys are referred to as hard breeders; they have weak semen thus hard to use technologies such as artificial insemination. Courtship can take up to 3 years and gestation period is 12 – 14 months. KENDAT is working with communities to pilot community based natural donkey breeding in Mwea, Kirinyaga county and has recruited 10 donkey owners to volunteer 10 donkeys (7 females and 3 males) with desirable breeding characteristics. Five (5) females have already given birth to five (5) foals which are closely monitored by programme veterinary officers. The programme, using lesson learned, will expand the program to Kiambu and Nyandarua counties
7) Fodder production
Fodder is one of the most problematic livestock keeping inputs especially where the size of farms per individual farmer is declining and the unpredictable rains. Realizing this, the programme has done a pilot project with 2 donkey welfare groups at Ol Kalou and Miharati in Nyandarua County on fodder production and preservation on a cost-sharing basis. The 2 groups were supported to lease a 2-acres of land each and farm input to kick start the project and they were able to harvest 43 bags of oat seeds weighing 70 kg each and enough oat strolls to feed 91 donkeys during the dry season. The groups sold oat seeds at Ksh 4,000 each to local farmers to diversify group income. Learning points from the pilot project will be used to roll out the project to other parts of the county and subsequently to neighboring Laikipia County