Tail up …

… but no water for the head! That is an accurate description of the situation currently facing the camel keepers in Isiolo County supported by Biovision. Although the current drought is putting a severe strain on the camels, they withstand it significantly better than other livestock.

Simon Gottwalt, Programme Officer

The farmer group in Kula Mawe has been waiting a long time for the camels to produce offspring. However, at long last many of the camels provided by Biovision are now pregnant, opening up the prospect of a profit for the pastoral groups in the not too distant future. When I ask how they know the camels are pregnant, the new camel owners in Kula Mawe grin and raise their hands. They answer with one voice: They lift up their tails when you approach them – a sign to the male camels that they are wasting their time trying it on here.”

At long last the camels are pregnant

The group members are relatively poor and so the lack of offspring was a major challenge: As long as the camels failed to produce young, they had no milk and even though they had no income, the group still had to find money for the herder and feed. However, since October 2017, the herd in Kula Mawe – as have other groups supported by Biovision – have had a male breeding camel. He has been a resounding success and according to Benjamin Losusui, the herder for the group, all the animals are now pregnant. I can see this for myself as when Benjamin approaches the camels, up go the tails.

 

  • Pregnancy test: Mustapha Roba, chairman of the camel group in Kula Mawe demonstrates how the camel lifts its tail if you approach.

Drought causes major problems for the pastoralists

2017 was an extremely dry year; the amount of food available for the animals in Northern Kenya has drastically declined (see Newsletter August 2017) and so milk yields are also down. However, the camel keepers report that the camels have withstood the drought well, whereas many cattle and goats perished. The camels can store sufficient water for two weeks and so are better able to cope with the increasing distances between watering holes. In addition, the camel’s diet is well suited to the harsh climate in Northern Kenya and they can even tolerate thorny or salty bushes.

Camels can help, therefore, to mitigate the impact of climate change and the overexploitation of land in the region. This is more urgent than ever because the drought has caused significant unrest in neighbouring Laikipia. In that instance, it was primarily cattle herders from another county who invaded looking for food.