The African Union Commission
says over-exploitation of the donkey which has seen an alarming reduction in the
population of the beast of service on the continent could disrupt efforts aimed
at ensuring sustainable agriculture and food systems.
The Commissioner in charge of Agriculture Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment Josefa Sacko warns that communities living in fragile environments such as the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands of Africa which cover about 66 per cent of the continent are at risk of losing a major component of their livelihoods in what they benefit from the donkey.
In a speech read on her behalf by Prof. James Wabacha, an Animal Health Specialist based at the African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), Amb. Sacko said that in the agriculture sector, “animals are central to production systems and their welfare is a key challenge in the delicate balance between their welfare and the socio-economic demands.”
In the presentation made at the 2022 Pan African Donkey Conference held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania that also called for banning of trade in donkeys, Sacko said that they play a critical role in rural communities for transport, the water pulling for construction, farming and waste collection hence central to livelihoods and the community’s sustainability and wellbeing.
She noted that even as donkeys “are considered as invisible workers and neglected species,” there is a need for the development of policies, strategies and legislation to ensure the preservation and conservation of the donkey.
“I encourage Member States and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to include donkeys as part of livestock in their respective national and regional livestock development components of their National Agriculture Investment Plans (NAIPs) and their regional agriculture investment plans (RAIP) as well as the national and regional CAADP compacts,” she advised.
While giving grim statistics, Sacko explained that 40% of the gross domestic product in the agriculture sector comes from livestock resources, on a continent in which 70% of the people live below the poverty line.
She further averred that 66% of Africa is arid or semi-arid with over 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa living in the ASALs and are wholly dependent on the donkey for “transporting water to the homesteads, goods to the market and even building materials to the new environments in search of pasture and water for the other animals,”
Saying that recent times have seen the deterioration and degradation of the environment leading to water stress with more people relying on fetching water for survival, “the donkey is a critical part of their lives.”
Sacko warned that if the donkey population continues to be decimated for export for their skin, women and children in the arid and semi-arid lands “may have to take over the burden of carrying the water for the livestock and the family.”
Sacko expressed worry that disregard for animal welfare often leads to poor animal health and poor quality or contaminated animal-based food products, with resulting economic losses.
She appealed to the Africa Union member states to embrace sustainable development and utilisation of animal resources with the consideration of animal welfare principles in order to realize the aspirations of the continental frameworks and agendas including the realization of the transformation of Agriculture in line with the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), Malabo commitments as well as Agenda 2063 of Africa We Want of the Africa Union.