Windhoek — Domesticated animals, perhaps, are best known for providing meat, draft power, milk, affection and security. Each has its unique traits and it may be questionable in society for people to consume dog or cat milk, eat cats or even roast parrots.
Nevertheless, donkey milk is fit for human consumption and Reverend Edward Amadhila believes Namibia has "a lot of donkeys" so it would be worth exploiting that untapped potential for protein.
"With the unemployment rate at 51.2 percent and very soon we will have 250 000 orphans and vulnerable children,we need to come forward with solutions for our community - if not, we will have more people eating from dump sites," he said.
Amadhila himself uses donkeys to plough mahangu fields at his farm but he has tasted donkey milk: "Donkey milk is the closest to human milk. During the December holidays we had the privilege to milk the donkeys at the farm. It never crossed my mind that I would one day drink donkey milk. After milking the donkeys, I was the first to drink, and I can tell you it (donkey milk) is very sweet and very thin in the mouth compared to goat and cow milk," he said.
Dietician Samantha du Toit affirmed: "It is very similar to human milk which is very much an advantage, but I wouldn't promote it for use for feeding an infant, just as a 'last use'. Children who are allergic to cow's milk can be able to tolerate donkey milk because it has more lactose and less fat than cow's milk. It's a better alternative. If it was far from human or cow's milk I would not recommended it."
Asserting a maximum two litres per day per donkey milk output, Amadhila pointed out that 19th Century and early 20th Century monarchs use donkey milk to maximum effect.
"In France in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, donkey milk was used as a palliative for people suffering from tuberculosis, and as a substitute for mother's milk for orphans, with a number of hospitals maintaining herds of lactating donkeys for this purpose.
"There are reports that in Germany it was used by people suffering from meningitis," he said.
Amadhila embarked on a mission to interview different residents of his farm and he found one woman who had a steady diet of donkey milk.
"I was surprised by the knowledge that is there, especially among the Damara-speaking Namibians. I met this woman and she told me that her lungs opened up and are now healthier than ever. She was so excited to share her story and this confirms that donkey milk is healthy," he said.
However, attempts to contact the woman for confirmation did not materialise.
Amadhila also mentioned its skincare potential, saying: "Cleopatra of Egypt is supposed to have bathed in it regularly."
Meanwhile, a staff member at Shadonai Beauty Consultants, Charlin Lesch, said donkey milk contains an incredible amount of fatty acids, vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, D and E, minerals and proteins good for the skin.
"Thanks to this composition, donkey milk is extremely effective against dry skin and wrinkles: it's a natural tensor, able to prevent skin from aging and also regenerates it," said Lesch.
Donkey milk was highly prized by ancient people. The Greeks considered it an excellent remedy; the Romans regarded it as a luxury drink. Hippocrates recommended it for all sorts of maladies: poisonings and snakebites, joint pains, wounds, etc.
In fact, in the 19th century, and even at the beginning of the 20th, many people used it as a remedy. At that time, especially in Paris, many "donkey milk dairies" were established so that upper class women could purchase what was regarded as a precious beverage.
Last year, the World Tennis Association (WTA) men's number one ranked player Serbian Novak Djokovic, was reported to have purchased a supply of 'Pule' - donkey cheese.
The extravagant cheese reportedly sells at 1000 euros (N$10 000) per kilogramme, while each kilogramme requires 25 litres of milk to produce.