On Sunday, June 15 2014, Al Jazeera journeyed to Lamu, off the coast of Mombasa, to meet the residents of the fascinating place known as Donkey Island. Lamu is populated by 24,000 people, 6,000 donkeys and just two cars. Nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lamu is called ‘the donkey capital of Africa.’

Shee-Femao-with-his-Own-Donkey.-Copyright-Bars-Media

Shee Famao is 14 and preparing to win his third donkey racing championship. His dream is to buy his own donkey. If he loses, however, the consequences will be dire. “I won’t be happy if I lose, because I won’t have money for food.”

The odds are stacked against Shee. As the only breadwinner for his family, he must juggle training for the race on a borrowed donkey with working to provide for his family and trying not to fall further behind at school, where he’s already in the third grade instead of the seventh. Complicating things even more, Shee has a three-year probation hanging over his head for marijuana possession and his parole officer warns that he will be arrested if he competes, as donkey racers are being used to smuggle drugs.

Donkey Island won The Special Prize at Saratov Sufferings International Film Festival in Russia and Best Documentary Film at Golden Apricot International Film Festival.

The documentary premiered Sunday, 15 June 2014 at 23h30 East African Time on Witness, Al Jazeera’s flagship documentary strand. It will be repeated on Wednesday, 18 June 2014 so be sure to catch it then.

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