Camels for Drought Areas

Camel husbandry in drought areas of Kenya as an adaptation to climate change

More than 70% of Kenya’s land area is arid or semi-arid and many of those living in these areas rely on livestock farming and in particular cattle.  However, this type of farming is suffering from the effects of changes in weather conditions and many cattle are dying from a lack of water. The consequences are devastating for farmers. Camels are particularly suited to areas plagued by droughts.

Objectives

To improve the resilience of pastoral communities in Kenya to the effects of drought and other problems.

In Kenya, the arid areas are increasingly affected by drought. It is important and practical, therefore, for local people to diversify and keep camels as well as cattle.

Relevance

Camels are well suited to harsh conditions as they can cope well with drought.  Camels are less demanding than cows when it comes to food and will even eat the leaves of the thorny acacia trees. As the methods used for looking after camels differ significantly from those for goats and cattle, Biovision is helping to train people in the good camel husbandry.

The project activities are held in villages throughout the Isiolo District of Kenya where poverty levels and numbers of malnourished children are high. Most villagers rely on agriculture and in particular livestock farming. Isiolo is also a very important centre for the production of camel milk and all camel milk sold in Nairobi comes from this district. Camel husbandry is not a new departure for the Borana, an ethnic group to which most project beneficiaries belong, as previous generations also kept camels.

Beneficiaries

5,520 people in the project area of Isiolo are benefiting directly from the project, of whom 1,490 are women. This figure of 5,520 is made up of 5,000 livestock farmers, 135 camel-milk traders, 355 households in receipt of camels as part of the project and 35 government employees from the veterinary medicine service. There are also 23,100 indirect beneficiaries living in the zone of influence of the project; firstly the family members of participants, who benefit from improved food security and the extra income earned from the sale of camel milk and meat. Secondly, the specialists in veterinary medicine, who receive additional training in livestock diseases and have an opportunity to make contact with potential new customers.

Families use some of the camel milk for their own needs and the surplus is taken to centres run by the Milk Cooperatives where it is prepared for sale.
Women in the Eastleigh Women’s Group sell the camel milk from Isiolo on the market in Nairobi and so form part of the supply chain.

Activities 2016 – 2017

  • Improve the living conditions of 355 pastoral households by distributing camels and providing additional training in camel husbandry
  • Improve the living conditions of at least 135 pastoral households by supporting the production and marketing of camel milk
  • Increase knowledge in the community about the health of livestock in areas of Kenya with an arid or semi-arid climate

Achievements

50 female camels have been distributed; a three-day training in camel husbandry completed; 32 women from the Eastleigh Women’s Group trained in camel milk hygiene and how to sell milk at Nairobi markets. A pasteurising machine, a cooling tank, 250 milk churns, milk funnels, a stainless steel table for use when filling containers with milk, a milk pump and a water pump have been purchased for the Anolei Women’s Cooperative. 25 field workers from the Ministry of Agriculture in Isiolo District attended a 3-day workshop on camel husbandry and diseases. The project has compiled information on animal diseases and uploaded it to the Infonet (Biovision’s information platform). A total of 2,207 cattle farmers have received information on livestock husbandry and a range of animal diseases.

Handover strategy

Camel owners have links with the government veterinary officers, giving them access to veterinary treatment even after the end of the project. The cost of the treatment will be covered by the camel owners themselves with the income earned by selling the milk. Participants are encouraged to become part of the supply chain for camel milk, including marketing. This will allow them to sell their products independently at rural and urban markets. The project is structured so that the various women’s cooperatives cover all parts of the supply chain. This means that they are not reliant on doing business with third parties. In the area of animal health, livestock farmers will be able to recognise and treat any diseases that occur. These diseases are then reported to the local authorities.  The local authorities have incorporated the web-based disease monitoring system into their own planning and funding systems. This will allow them to monitor the incidence of animal diseases, recognise potential epidemics more quickly and so prevent them.