The dominant wet season caused by the ongoing rains has caused dangerous infections to many donkeys in Kirinyaga County leading to reduced earnings for donkey transporters.Farmers say the animals are suffering from thrushes and hoof rots affecting their daily transportation services.“The affected donkeys walk with difficulties affecting our daily activities as they can’t haul loads. Following this condition, many donkeys are not working,” said Dennis Muchira, a donkey owner.Donkeys play critical role in the transportation sector in the County where rice farming is done in large scale through Mwea Irrigation Scheme.“Due to poor roads, motorists are unable to reach interior parts of Mwea. We use donkeys to access those parts of the region. Other than transporting bags of rice, we use donkeys to fetch water and ferrying firewood relieving women from the tiresome chores,” he said.
A veterinary officer, Peter Murimi said the affected donkeys had been exposed to mud and wet conditions, which made them prone to various hooves infections. Murimi said that affected donkeys should not be harnessed adding that owners should make arrangements to trim the hooves and allow the animals to rest. He said, “Most of the infections are treatable by trimming hooves and applying antiseptic which is done by a veterinary officer of trained farmer.”Murimi advised farmers to always keep their donkeys in dry conditions to reduce their vulnerability to foot rot and other diseases. Cyrus Gitonga, the Mwea Donkey Owners Association Chairman hailed the ban on slaughter of donkeys, saying it will enable the animals to reproduce after years of being under threat of extinction. He noted that theft of donkeys has stopped in Mwea since Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya announce the ban on donkey slaughtering in February.“However, we urge the government to introduce technologies for rapid reproduction to restock the population of donkeys in the region,” he said.The population of donkeys in the 2009 census was 1.8 million but a survey by Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organization last year showed the population had dropped to lows of 1.2 million. Kalro warned donkey’s national growth rate is 1.4 percent, whereas the animals were being slaughtered at a higher rate. Cynthia Peter, a donkey Welfare officer attached to Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies (Kendat) said their campaign to advocate for proper donkey husbandry had paid off as donkeys were not flogged or overworked like it used to happen before. She called upon the drivers along the busy Embu-Mwea-Nairobi highway to respect donkey transporters so as to ensure they are safe always.
Tebere MCA Gudson Muchina, who is also a donkey farmer said he was unhappy that many drivers continue to disregard donkey riders and expose them to danger as they push them out of the road.“Donkey carts also have the right of way when they observe the relevant traffic laws,” he said. They spoke at Mwea market during a clinic organized by the Kendat to commemorate the National Donkey Day.