Breeding more donkeys in Nigeria
By Salisu Na’inna Dambatta
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has factored the breeding of more donkeys in the National Agricultrural Technology and Innovation Policy (NATIP). The purpose is to prevent their extinction. NATIP is to
guide the revitalisation of all aspects of agriculture in the country between 2022 and 2027.
But what is donkey? It is “a domesticated hoofed mammal of the horse family with long ears and a braying call, used as a beast of burden; an ass.”
A United Kingdom charity for donkeys said at its website, thedonkeysanctuary.co.uk that, “Donkeys were first domesticated around 6,000 years ago in North Africa and Egypt for meat and milk.”. It continued, “Around 2,000 years ago donkeys were among the draught animals used to carry silk from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean along the Silk Road…”
The Donkey Sanctuary says, “For thousands of years donkeys have been the ‘helping hooves’ of humankind – they are the original beasts of burden. In many countries of the world donkeys are used as the preferred mode of transport. Donkeys are much more of an all-terrain animal than horses.”
In Nigeria as in much of Africa and a clutch of European, Asian and Latin American countries, donkeys remain relevant and useful to mankind as beasts of burden, sources of meat, milk and skins.
Peasant in rural Northern Nigeria use donkeys for carrying and drawing water, transporting mud to build houses, ferrying manure to farms, delivering firewood to homes, evacuating bundles and sacks of harvested crops to storage and taking wares to markets. Motorised transportation equipment have not ended the role of donkeys in transportation.
It is appropriate that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has recognised the value of donkeys in the NATIP document and is interested in the “promotion of donkey production through advocacy, research and input support to avert its extinction.”
The Ministry said in 2020 that Nigeria has about 974,499 donkeys. But 2019 figures published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation indicates that Nigeria had 1.3 million donkeys. The FAOSTAT says, “Donkeys are most numerous in Ethiopia (8.7 million), Sudan (7.6 million), Pakistan (5.4 million), Chad (3.6 million), Mexico (3.2 million), China (2.6 million), Niger (1.9 million), Afghanistan (1.5 million), Iran (1.5 million) and Nigeria (1.3 million).
Mass breeding of donkeys was advocated by then governor of Zamfara State, Ahmed Yarima Sani who opposed the excessive purchase of donkeys from the state for slaughter elsewhere in the country. He banned the sales of donkeys, encouraged their usage for transporation and called for their domestic mass breeding.
One Isa Maishanu was quoted by a Nigerian newspaper saying that his mother bought a donkey for him to make a living. He reportedly feared that donkeys may go into extinction unless their mass slaughter is reduced.
The Kaduna state Government banned the slaughter of donkeys in a village where its meat and skins were processed and transported to another state where the meat is consumed and the skin exported to China. The government warned that the transportation of donkeys into Kaduna State is a criminal offence and violators would be prosecuted.
Garba Datti Mohammed, member of the House of Representatives and Senator Yahaya Abdullahi presented a Bill to the National Assembly in 2021 which declared donkeys as endangered species, sought regulation for their slaughter and the introduction of export certification for their skins.
Mr. Ifeanyi Dike, leader of the Donkey Dealers Association (DDA) agreed during a public hearing on the Bill that regulating donkey trade could generate jobs and enrich breeders, traders, owners of slaughter houses, logistics providers and exporters of donkey derivatives.
He said DDA has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI) for the breeding of five million donkeys within 10 years to avert their extinction. So far no donkey has been bred at NAPRI, Zaria.
It has been established that donkeys are used in transportation in parts of Nigeria. Donkeys are also kept as commercial livestock; and for their milk, meat and skins. Their mass slaughter without breeding to replenish the stock will be disastrous. Therefore, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development was right in making breeding more donkeys a policy issue.
Salisu Na’inna Dambatta is a retired Federal Director of Information