‘Resilience’ is the latest buzzword in social, environmental and international development circles. Donkeys are known for their physical resilience in the face of drought and abuse by humans but they can also help women’s resilience in poor communities.
Tumme Konton, her husband Sisay and their children live in a tiny settlement called Adankonsole, near the small market town of Soguba, not far from the Kenyan border in Ethiopia.
Although she has no running water, sanitation or electricity, she would not think of herself as poor – in fact she has some status in her community. She has a good stock of animals, including a donkey, which enables her to provide for her family. The Donkey Sanctuary are using this simple story to illustrate the importance of their work in Ethiopia to the lives of people as well as animals.
Tumme and her family get up shortly before dawn, at about 5.30am, to milk their small herd of cattle and camels.
The family need water; next job is to fetch this with the help of the family’s donkey, Bukke.
Back home, the water containers are taken off and milk containers loaded onto his back. Bukke must now carry the camel and cow’s milk to the trading point on the highway at Soguba, three kilometres away.
The family and their donkeys walk the three kilometres to Soguba. Bukke knows the way and doesn’t need to be led. He breaks into a trot for the last part of the journey.
Once at Soguba, Tumme and the other local women producers decant their milk into yet other containers for a trader to transport them by bus. Each container has been permanently marked to show who has supplied the milk; a way of accounting, without demanding literacy.
Each day the trader transports hundreds of litres of milk to Kenya on the roof of the bus. The following day he pays the women producers, returns their empty, marked containers and collects the next load of milk.
Bukke’s working day is over.
The family take him home and rest him.
Having a healthy donkey makes it possible for Tumme, and the other women, to make an income and take part directly in an international market for their produce.
Tumme jokes that Bukke’s importance in the family is somewhere between that of her husband and her children.