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Meet the farmer who thinks it’s highly beneficial – and is even turning it into biltong

Picture: Philimon Bulawayo, Reuters

A FARMER/businessman has been advocating for the rise of the donkey industry, claiming that donkey products have both nutritional and medical benefits, which could lead to villagers becoming economically empowered.

Forty-seven-year-old Mompati Kgomanyane-Modimogale from the Modimola village in Mafikeng said during an interview that he is trying to change the old narrative on donkeys.

Kgomanyane-Modimogale said for a long time, people who ate donkey meat in the North West were labelled as “poor people”, but his determination and recent collaboration with universities and doctors have allowed the idea to gain traction.

The 47-year-old works on his farm, Modi Donkey Farm, which is based in a village in the North West.

He said villagers had eaten it for a long time and even fed donkey milk to their children as a substitute for human breast milk.

Dr Tumelo Leeuw, a Paediatrician from Mafikeng, said she came across Italian research which indicated donkey milk could be good for treating children with eczema and respiratory issues.

Research into the benefits of donkey milk at a domestic level has been hard to come by though Dr Leeuw said, adding that the industry may boom once more supporting scientific evidence surfaces.

“I don’t know if you know the history of Mafikeng, but people had a lot of donkeys in the past, and people actually do consume donkey meat,” Dr Leeuw said.

According to a report by the Dairy Reporter last year, the Italian Parliament is looking to boost the value of donkey milk production chain.

Another research paper uncovers some of the benefits of donkey milk in children, particularly those who suffer from allergies.

Modimogale grew up eating donkey meat while working on his grandfather’s farm, but his journey of creating awareness and business inroads only started five years ago, during a trip to Botswana.

After witnessing the commercial value of donkey meat in Botswana, Modimogale was inspired to create his own business back in South Africa. He now sells donkey biltong and donkey Tshotlho, which is similar to pulled pork.

But a lack of regulatory framework and funding surrounding the donkey industry are just some of the challenges Modimogale has to overcome before levelling up his business.

“I believe that once it has been commercialised, it will be able to assist our people staying in villages, because most of the people staying in rural areas, own donkeys. The other reason I would like to see this happen is because then, maybe, people will start giving donkeys the respect they deserve,” Modimogale said.

“When I was growing up, our parents and grandparents only used the donkeys for farming but saw its commercial value. They never saw them as a business. They were just using it to fetch water, but once I went to Botswana and started researching, I found that the industry could have potential,” he added.

Modimogale’s farm in Mafikeng also gets regular visits from two PhD students from the North West University (NWU).

Modi Farm has also been named as one of the University’s Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) Centre’s strategic partners. The partnership is focusing on testing donkey milk and meat for nutritional value as well as the socio-economic value of donkeys in the North West.

NWU communication officer Mokgothu Phenyo Walter told IOL that some NWU students have also visited the farm to learn more about the subject as well as to deworm and perform general check-ups on them.

“The IKS Centre jointly with the Department of Animal Sciences of the North West University (NWU) are now engaged to provide research and innovation support with and for Modi Donkey Farm,” director of the IKS centre, Dr Motheo Koitsiwe, said, in a letter to Modi Farm confirming its collaboration.

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