Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Sagri Bambangi, says he disagrees with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture on its ban on the killing of donkeys for commercial purposes in Ghana.
Dr. Bambangi, MP for Walewale Constituency, in an interview with Citi Business News said that donkeys are no longer useful relative to the introduction of tricycles which does the perfect job of the donkey cart.
“They are becoming less significant because of the era of the motor tricycles. The motor tricycles have effectively substituted the donkey carts and they happened to be better substitutes even though they take fuel, it is better to work with a motor tricycle than a donkey cart which is much drudgery. I bought my own donkey cart 25 years ago and one of my cousins was using it. It was a very strategic and important means of transport for carting farm produce and carting firewood and quite lucrative, and anytime there was water shortage, they were even used for carting water.”
On January 17, 2017 the Ministry of Food and Agriculture placed a ban on donkey trade because Ghana’s donkey population was going extinct due to a high demand for donkey skin by the Chinese around mid-2016.
Demand for donkey hide, which is boiled to produce gelatine – the key ingredient in a medicine called ejiao in China – has raised the price and the rate of slaughter of the animals, threatening the livelihoods of poor communities who rely on them. The medicines created from the hide serve as blood tonic, aphrodisiacs and, anti-aging creams.
The consumption of donkey meat is also a popular tradition in some parts of China, where it is highly expensive.
Some groups in Africa eat donkey meat because it is an inexpensive protein but in some communities, it is a taboo.
The demand is now outstripping supply.
According to the animal protection organization, PETA, 1.8 million donkeys are killed per year in China alone, while global demand is estimated between 4 to 10 million skins. This has raised the price of donkeys in some countries, making them unaffordable for many people who use them to convey goods to market, cultivate land, and fetch water.
Ghana and Kenya are the leading producers of donkey meat and skin.
In Ghana, the Chinese initially set up several factories to process donkey meat and hides for export in the Northern part but they have been closed down by the Assembly after several reported cases of donkey theft.
Speaking with a donkey cart operator at Nalerigu in North East Region, Nantogmah Abdullai, says the comments of the Deputy Minister of Agriculture on donkeys, is insensitive and would affect many rural people.
“Truth be told, donkeys are important to us. I have been working with this donkey for 9 nine years. It does all the farm work and business for us. It sustains the house for us.”
The MP continued to defend his stand despite the fact that donkeys had been useful to him personally in the past.
“We are living in a liberal economy, and I am telling you that a lot of private sector actors are motivated by economic signals”, he said.
While statistics on donkey export from Ghana are not available, about 80,000 donkeys were exported in 2016 in Nigeria. Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Niger and Pakistan, have all banned the export of donkeys.
According to the Ghana Society for the Protection and Care of Animals, Ghana owned about 14,500 donkeys as at when the last donkey census was carried out in 2015. However the number has declined sharply due to the slaughter of the animals and pleaded that law be enforced or else donkeys welfare are at stake as well as Ghana’s poorest citizens who rely on donkeys for farming activities and the transportation of goods, especially in rural areas, are going to be affected in a catastrophic way.
For Abdullai, the donkey cart operator, the MP’s comment is self-centered without considering the locals.
He wants the state to protect donkeys.
“He [The Deputy Agric Minister] hasn’t spoken the truth. If the donkeys are not useful to him, they are still useful to us. Sometime ago, thieves were stealing our donkeys just for the skin. It was common in this town.”
Why the upscale in donkey trade?
Demand for donkey hide, which is boiled to produce gelatine – the key ingredient in a medicine called ejiao in China – has raised the price and the rate of slaughter of the animals, threatening the livelihoods of poor communities who rely on them.
The emergence of the global trade in donkey hide is attributed to the rise of China’s middle class and increased perception of the medicine’s efficacy. Ejiao can sell for up to £300 per kilo. The medicines created from the hide serve as blood tonic, aphrodisiacs and anti-ageing creams.