A simple story about donkeys and people

A simple story about donkeys and people

With thanks to Mwende, Beth, Lydia, Jadida & The Donkey Sanctuary

Aid policy and interventions can raise very complex issues but in drought ridden Mwingi in NE Kenya the role of donkeys is really very simple. Without donkeys, people and their livestock cannot survive.

Donkeys form the vital final link in the distribution of water, food, firewood, fertiliser, grain and market goods.

Mwende holding the skull of Mutawr

This is Mwende holding the skull of Mutawr one of the nine cattle and ten goats she lost in the drought of 2009.


This cow is Kanini, Mutawr’s sister.


Kanini is alive because this donkey has been bringing her water.

Women often carry 25kg of water at a time, a donkey can carry 100kg.

When the drought intensifies, the distance to the nearest water point increases and the wait once there runs into hours.

Without a donkey there are not enough hours in the day for a woman to make the trips needed to keep her family and livestock alive.

Donkeys are drought resistant and can carry loads over long distances. They can survive on dry sticks and little water. Cattle suffer far worse in a drought and cannot make the journeys to distant water points. Water needs to be brought to them.

So it’s thanks to their donkeys that Mwende, Beth, Lydia, Jadida and their families have clean water to drink, water to keep their animals alive and to wash themselves and their clothes with. They also have firewood to cook with, transport for goods to and from the market and a way to spread manure on their land, ready for when the rains finally come.