Highlight 2011: Camels not cattle

Raising cattle in the arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya is becoming increasingly difficult because there is too little water. Since 2011, Biovision has been promoting camels as livestock. They require very little water or extra nutrition. This guarantees food and income success for Kenya’s shepherds.

In the semi-arid areas of Kenya, water and feed for animals are becoming harder to find as a result of climate change. This is true in Merti, 200 kilometres northeast of Mt. Kenya. During recent years, the people there have lost their cattle as the rains often did not come and watering holes were inaccessible for the animals. Since then the people are dependent on food aid.

Robust, economical and soil compacting

In 2010, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation financed the launch of a camel project to find a sustainable solution. Camels are adapted to the difficult local conditions. They can go for ten days without water and if necessary can survive on leaves from thorny shrubs. Their soft soles do not damage delicate soil, and they provide milk, meat and leather.

“Vets Without Borders – Switzerland”, with long experience in projects on cattle and camel husbandry, took over execution of the project. The people of Merti were supported by the establishment of a Camel Committee, which determined as a first step105 especially disadvantaged people such as widows or parents with many children, who received a female camel provided by DEZA as a long term investment, and 5 goats to immediately combat the crisis. The recipients made a financial contribution of around 30 000 Kenyan shillings (30 Swiss francs).

Rebuilding lost knowledge

About 80 years ago, people in the project area knew about camel husbandry, but since then the knowledge and experience in handling these animals has been lost. To close the gap in knowledge, Biovision joined the project in 2011 and financed additional training for ten local vets in camel husbandry, creation of teaching materials and practical courses for camel owners. Camel owners are now learning how to handle the animals, species-appropriate welfare, how to recognise diseases and simple treatment methods. Biovision is also supporting Kenyan scientists in testing if camel husbandry will deliver in the long term what is expected: Improved food security, creation of new sources of income and conservative use of land threatened by erosion.