Okahandja's asses on the line

The environmental assessment of a proposed donkey abattoir at Okahandja makes no mention of the lucrative Chinese donkey-skin trade, and purports to focus on providing donkey meat to local consumers and China.

22 September 2017 | Agriculture

An environmental impact assessment (EIA) for a proposed donkey abattoir in Okahandja to be operated by a joint Chinese and Namibian venture, Agrinature Trade and Investment Plans, plans to slaughter 100 donkeys per day.

The EIA, which is currently under review for an environmental clearance certificate which has not yet been issued, states that renovations of a facility at Okahandja are expected to take less than six months, with the aim to be operational by the end of 2017. “Operation will start after three months from the end of its renovations and uplifting work.”

The EIA and the environmental management plan (EMP), completed by CNM environmental consulting services last November, state that their assessment of the abattoir is of critical importance for a number of reasons. The consultants conclude that from their assessment, and public meetings held in October that year as well as feedback from key stakeholders, with the “present situation where there is demand for donkey meat and the expectation of the public, it is critically important to establish this abattoir.”

The EIA states that the proposed project will “improve access to quality and safe donkey meat. Therefore, the project will benefit the public as a whole and individuals related directly or indirectly to slaughtering activities.” It will also “generate significant economic and social benefits such as job creation, infrastructure development, and improve revenue generation of Okahandja Town.”

Meat, not skins

The EIA sums up that the proposed abattoir “is intended to process donkey meat and supply to local consumers as well as export to China.”

The EIA documents themselves however do not list or refer to any studies that specifically deal with the demand for donkey meat in Namibia, or elsewhere.

However, the EIA concludes with the recommendation that although there are some potential negative impacts, these can be mitigated and overall recommends that the project should be issued with an environmental clearance certificate form the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

The “primary focus of the proposed donkey abattoir plant is to perform primary processing donkey meat. The processing capacity of the plant will be 100 donkeys per day,” EIA documents state.

Although the skins of donkeys are of much higher international value, considering significant demand from the Chinese market for the production of a popular traditional medicine, the EIA states the donkey skins at the Okahandja abattoir will form part of the solid waste and sold to “micro enterprises”.

The documents do not indicate any intention on the part of Agrinature, a joint-venture of Namibian and Chinese business people, to export the skins to China, unlike a planned donkey abattoir operation in Outjo.

Experts, who spoke on condition of anonymity to Namibian Sun, pointed out that the costs of running a donkey abattoir for the donkey meat alone make little economic sense.

The donkeys skins “are the big bucks, where all the profit lies” a reliable source explained.

The EIA states that the project is “also expected to have interactions with local small and micro enterprises, product dealers and service providers through its provision of access to products like hide and skin, organic fertiliser and animal feed. In view of this fact, indirect employment to be created from the project can be considered indispensable.”

The EIA recommends that the “hide and skin are strictly needed to be daily removed from site. The management of the facility shall arrange this with micro enterprises, to assist them in income generation. However, a temporary shed to store some hides are provided in case an immediate daily removal could be interrupted (sic).”

How many are there

The issue of sustainability of a donkey abattoir has been raised on a number of occasions in the past months, as the issue of the donkey-skin trade and its impact on local communities has gained attention.

At least six African countries have barred the trade, as a result of the impact of the trade on donkey populations, crime, illegal activities and social, cultural and other concerns.

Many have also voiced concerns that Namibia's relatively small donkey population could risk being depleted within a few years if one or more donkey abattoirs, as public plans indicate, should operate simultaneously.

Notes from a stakeholders' meeting hosted by the consultants for the Okahandja abattoir last year show that in response to a question of where the donkeys will be sourced from, “the proponent plans to breed donkeys for this specific purpose at suitable farmland they will identify in future.”

Agrinature also plans to source donkeys “from farmers in the area around Okahandja and in other regions across the country,” the documents state.

However, although Agrinature claim they would consider a “donkey breeding scheme … to ensure there is enough donkeys”, veterinarians have on several occasions said this is an unworkable and unrealistic idea.

Donkeys, unlike livestock such as cattle and sheep, breed slowly and breeding programmes are not viable, nor will they be able to sufficiently replace stock that is depleted through abattoir operations.

Details of a potential donkey breeding scheme are not contained in the EIA or EMP submitted to the ministry.

Nor does the EIA list Namibia's current donkey population or concern over the sustainability of the operations.

Notable negative environmental impacts identified by the consultants and through stakeholder meetings include floods and erosion, air and noise pollution and waterlogging and poor drainage during the implementation of the project.

Increased water demand is also listed.

The consultants note that through the implementation of the EMP, negative impacts can be mitigated.

“In conclusion there will be no severe or immitigable impacts that can prevent the implementation of the proposed abattoir project provided that the recommended mitigation measures are properly and timely implemented.”

On the question of animal welfare, raised by a public participant at a public meeting in October, it is stated that “the abattoir will comply with all the national and international standards for abattoirs and animal welfare is part of abattoir operations worldwide.”

The agriculture ministry confirmed yesterday that the donkey population census figures for 2016 was 144 647.


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