Rescued donkeys thrive on Enaleni Farm

ENALENI is a small-scale, agroecological farm that hosts public tours and eating experiences. Richard Haigh, who had extensive NGO sector experience prior to his farming journey, is passionate about heritage animal breeds and food that is cultivated near your dining table.

Haigh says, “Enaleni is a place where people can see a working example of agroecology, and we like the idea of ​​giving city people a chance to be on a farm. This is the opposite of fake food, and I’m interested in the relationship between what we grow, the healing properties of that and how we transform it in our homes to eat it and benefit from the nutritional potency of the food.”

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In keeping with the mission of Enaleni, Haigh uses animal traction on the farm, in addition to hand implements. Haigh says that donkeys were pivotal in the history of human progression.

“When you think of donkeys and their role in development all over the world, you think of the growth of cities, mining, farming, pioneers, and the donkeys’ function as a pack of animals. Across the globe, donkeys have really played a big role. We all know they are under threat with the rising interest, particularly in the Asian market for ‘ejiao’, the gelatin that comes from the skin,” says Haigh.

Donkey-hide gelatin is made by boiling the skin of the animal, rendering it into a tonic that is consumed medicinally. In March 2021, the Kloof and Highway SPCA responded to the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA)’s appeal to facilitate the rehoming of 36 donkeys from a group of 99, which were discovered in transit.

Lunch guests at Enaleni Farm: Lee Anderson-Brooks, Sue and Blair Miller, Tracey Nixon-James, Pam Goudi, Kim Alford, farmer Richard Haigh and Jess Taylor. (Front) Holly Boschoff. Photo: Sandy Woods.

“It was found that the donkeys, which included young foals, were destined for slaughter for their skins which would later be used in the donkey skin trade,” said the NSPCA in a statement at the time. The community responded enthusiastically.

Haigh says, “These animals were on their way to Lesotho to be slaughtered and skinned, and we ended up taking ten of them. Some had lost their mothers, and some were fed more than one foal. They were quite traumatised when we got them in April. We’ve had them for a year and a half now.”

High thought Lucky, who was covered in abscesses when he arrived at the farm, would not survive, but he is now thriving. Some mares were pregnant when Haigh rescued them, and the herd has grown. He says they have uniquely varying temperaments and are settled on the farm.

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Several donkeys are being trained for traction. The process of harnessing them for farmwork requires specific gear as they are physically different from horses and cows. Haigh says that today’s domestic donkeys have their roots in Northern Africa. Enaleni is home to a flock of indigenous sheep, amongst many other diverse and interesting farm animals.

Haigh says, “The sheep, called ‘izimvu’ in isiZulu, traveled with the Nguni people over 2,000 years ago. They are hardy and naturally coloured. At the end of summer, their tails get big and full of fat, which is the sheep’s energy reserve. We don’t need to shear them as their hair just falls out. We don’t manage traditional sheep like their European counterparts. They have a completely different story and history. Management of animals must relate to your environment, the breed that you have, and the objectives you are working towards.”

To inquire about adopting or sponsoring a rescued donkey from the SPCA, contact [email protected].