Kakooza uses his donkeys to carry firewood, water, cow feeds and other luggage on his farm
PIC: Donkeys can carry 150kg of goods and move a distance of about 50km without drinking water (Umar Nsubuga)
KAYUNGA - It is threatening to rain, forcing Twaha Kakooza, the owner of Shatwa Mixed Farm in Bubajjwe village, Kayunga, to race down the rough hilly terrain leading a donkey carrying of tree branches.
He is worried of getting wet, but rest assured his branches will get to their destination despite the muddy road.
“My donkeys can easily move through any terrain. It can climb steep slopes and go through rough paths with ease,” Kakooza says.
While Kakooza regards a donkey as a farm tool, to many Ugandans it is an animal for riding.
According to Kakooza, a donkey is the most reliable means of transport that can access any terrain.
He uses his donkeys to carry firewood, water, cow feeds and other luggage on his farm
“When used for cultivation, it can plough over an acre of land in a day, Kakooza says.
However, when used together with bulls they do more work.
“It can travel over 100km in 12 hours, making it the ideal beast of burden, Kakooza says, adding that it can carry over 150kg of goods and move a distance of about 50km without drinking water.
More importantly, the donkey is an obedient animal.
In the Sebei, region donkeys are also bred for income generation. An adult one costs between sh900,000 and sh1.2m. It can also be hired out to carry luggage and cultivate gardens at sh30,000 an acre.
Kakooza says a donkey that weighs over 100kg goes for not less than sh1m.
Some farmers in Mityana district have embraced the technology
Isaac Malinga, a commercial farmer in Kapchorwa district says a donkey should eat food twice its weight and drink a third its weight daily.
Because grass is easily available on the edges of Mt. Elgon National Park, he feeds his donkeys on grass and water under the free range system.
The main food is grass, hay, maize stalks or sugarcane stalks.
Humans do not drink donkey milk because it is bitter. Its meat is also bitter and red.
Donkeys are drought-resistant, efficient, hardworking and easy to maintain.
A mature one weighs between 125-150kg. This, however, depends on its age, size, nutrition and health.
Just like humans, donkeys which get enough rest carry more loads. They move faster than oxen and can work for long hours without tiring.
One of the workers on Shatwa Mixed Farm in Bubajjwe village, Kayunga rides on a loaded donkey
In Kapchorwa, farm sizes where donkeys are employed range from 0.5 to five acres.
Compared to the oxen, a donkey can cultivate 0.5 acres a day over a five-hour period.
Oxen, on the other hand, can work the same area in four hours, while resting at intervals of 10 minutes every two hours.
According to Kakooza, donkeys are gentle animals that keep their skin clean. They prefer resting under tree shades to wobbling in the mud.
“Unlike a tractor, a donkey can be used in mountainous areas because it cannot easily slip since it is sure-footed”.
According to Simon Chemarum, an official in Suam sub-county, Kapchorwa, a donkey can age without suffering from any illness.
Under favourable conditions, this animal can live for over 30 years. When it dies, it is buried or cremated to avoid the spread of diseases”, Kakooza explains.
Over 80% of the donkey population in Uganda is employed in agriculture. However, a donkey has to be trained from childhood before performing any task.
“Otherwise, it becomes violent when, one day, you attempt to load it,” Chemarum adds.
A donkey should eat food twice its weight and drink a third its weight daily
Kakooza says a donkey takes 12 months to produce, and it produces one offspring at a time. Twins are rare. The offspring feed on milk for two months, before being weaned.
Characteristics of donkeys
Donkeys appear to be quite intelligent, cautious, friendly, playful and eager to learn.
A donkey can be called by name and it responds. It can also tell the time by neighing at the top of every hour,” says Kakooza.
“This is how we tell time here, he explains. “It neighs both at night and day time”.
The loud noise also helps it to keep in contact with other donkeys over the wide distances. A donkey’s neigh can be heard over three kilometres away.
They also have large ears, which capture distant sounds and may help cool the donkey’s blood.
Donkeys defend themselves through kicks of their hind legs, as well as, biting and striking with the front hooves.
Worth noting is that a donkey is motherly. It cannot allow its offspring to carry luggage when it is free.
Kakooza says sometimes donkeys suffer from pneumonia and diet-related diseases that may be difficult to treat due to lack of drugs or veterinary experts to treat them.