Virginia Wangare depends on her two donkeys to transport water, firewood and farm produce to the market and back.
However, she is now planning to sell her treasured animals for fear of losing them.
“Almost all donkeys in the neighbouring village have been stolen. There have been two attempts to steal mine. It is better l sell them for at least Sh8,000 each rather than wait and lose both,” said Ms Wangare, who hails from Molo, during the launch of Alliance for the Donkey Welfare Organisations in Kenya (Adwok).
The donkey welfare seeks to empower farmers on caring and protecting their donkeys.
According to Eston Murithi, programme manager and acting CEO of Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technology (Kendat), if Wangare sells her donkeys, she automatically inherits all the work they have been doing.
The biggest challenge facing donkey farmers is theft and illegal slaughter.
Dr Raphael Kinoti, executive director of Farming Systems Kenya, said cases of theft and illegal slaughter of donkeys had increased following the launch of Naivasha abattoir. He said donkeys were slaughtered for their skin and meat.
“Initially, farmers lost very few donkeys. But after the opening of the slaughterhouse, farmers are now losing 600 donkeys in a month through illegal slaughter,” he warned.
He warned that if the donkeys were not protected, there could be none left in the next five years.
“Since Kajiado is arid, hundreds of women who relied on donkeys to fetch water over 10km away are having a hard time accessing water after their animals were stolen,” laments James Kombai, chief from Kajiado.
The administrator said many people in the area had sold their donkeys at throwaway prices, fearing they would be stolen.
But farmers hope the new welfare group will protect their donkeys against theft.
Dr Michael Cheruiyot, senior deputy veterinary services officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation said Kenya has 1.8 million donkeys, mostly concentrated in 17 counties.
“The number of donkeys we have in the country is reducing by the day and there is need to encourage farmers to consider rearing more donkeys,” said Dr Cheruiyot.
He warned that farmers also contribute to reduction of donkeys since they want donkeys to work all the time without thinking of how they reproduce.
“We have challenges convincing farmers to stop donkeys from working all the time and have time for breeding,” he said.