By Hussein Abdi Barre:
Dear brothers and sisters in Wajir, Mandera and Garissa. I wish to bring to your attention an environmental danger posed by a common domestic animal in our midst. The animal of concern is none other than the donkey.
As you may have realized particularly in Garissa, Wajir and Mandera, the population of donkeys has been on the rise. For those who travel the Mandera – Garissa road, grazing herds of donkeys along the entire route is common sight. The population is equally high in homesteads spread in the hinterlands.
Although donkeys have been with N.E.P inhabitants for long as a beast of burden, the notable population increase is a recent phenomenon due to changing social values.
With increased permanent human settlements and diminishing traditional grazing lands for camels and cattle especially, pastoralists opted increasingly for the more versatile donkey as the chosen beast of burden. Out of this necessity, the traditional values inhibiting the keeping of donkey has slowly eroded.
In olden days, Somali pastoralists frowned upon the rearing of donkey since it was associated with low social status thus discouraged its presence. Thus the recent changing favorable attitude towards donkeys, the versatility of donkeys to flourish in otherwise harsh environments such as towns with literally everything as feeds and being a convenient means of transport with high economic premium, explosion of donkey population was obvious. Its population increase is equally enhanced by the predominant Islamic faith in the region which prohibits the utilization of the animal save for transportation services only.
The combination of the above factors among others set the stage for tremendous donkey population growth.
The presence of high donkey population has notable negative environmental impact which if not remedied soon, is bound to exacerbate food insecurity in the already fragile eco-system.
Unlike other domestic animals, the donkey has a peculiar grazing habit which decimates vegetation fast since it feeds on tree barks and uproots shrubs with possibility of no shrub regrowth in subsequent season. Done on a large scale as the case is now in the former NEP region due to high donkey population, indigenous trees and shrubs are rendered extinct. There are many plant species which have already disappeared from the ecosystem with many more taking the same trend very soon. I am also informed by herders that donkey wastes are toxic hence destroy vegetation.
Because the inhabitants of former NEP region are predominantly pastoralists whose source of livelihood is livestock, there is ever urgent need for all right thinking citizens to sensitize themselves and others on the dangers posed by high donkey population. We need to raise the awareness of a critical mass opinion of the public so that concerted practical measures can be initiated to check donkey population.
Castration, limiting household donkey ownership to bare minimum, culling and finding donkey markets in donkey consuming regions are some of the practical solutions.
Besides responding to our immediate local needs of safeguarding livelihoods, this effort will equally double-up as one of the many interventions to check global climatic changes such as increasing temperatures and unpredictable rain pattern.
It is my hope that we all realize our responsibility as global citizens to better life environment through our small but conscious efforts.
Mr. Hussein Abdi Barre is a NEP social activist. He can be reached on his email email@example.com