Turkana County is now home to Kenya’s third donkey abattoir following the opening of a Sh200 million facility in Lodwar.
The Zilzha Ltd Slaughterhouse at Nakwaalele will process donkey meat and hides for export to China and other countries in the Far East where they are said to be in high demand. The Turkana abattoir will compete with two others; one in Maraigushu, Nakuru County, and another in Mogotio, Baringo County. Jing Long, one of the Chinese operating the abattoir, said it was expected to provide employment to more than 200 locals when in full operation.
Mr Long said they were interested in donkey hides which are in high demand back in China because they are believed to have medicinal value.
“We boil donkey skin to produce gelatin. It is then used to make traditional Chinese medicine known as ejiao,” he said.
Ejiao is used to treat conditions such as anaemia, heavy menstruation periods, dry coughs, insomnia and acts as an anti-ageing agent and an aphrodisiac.
Despite the abattoir providing employment for locals and a ready market for donkey farmers, not everyone is happy.
Way of life
Some locals say the factory threatens the future of the beast of burden, with the area unable to sustain demand. “Our donkeys are in danger. The number of donkeys being slaughtered daily is high and it is a threat to our nomadic way of life. The donkey is the only means of transport,” said Peter Lolem, a resident.
“We are scared that our donkeys will now be stolen and sold to the Chinese. What will our women use for transport? What will our people eat? What happens if we lose all the donkeys to the slaughterhouse?” posed Sally Akoyo, another resident. Agency for Pastoralists Development Executive Director Sam Kimeli also expressed concern over the issue, saying the residents’ concerns should be taken seriously.
“The matter is very delicate. If the donkeys are slaughtered randomly we might lose the population,” said Mr Kimeli.
The factories in Naivasha and Baringo have since their establishment struggled to maintain a steady supply of donkeys.