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, changes in climate and the resultant water shortages are making life much more difficult, particularly for cattle and this has a devastating impact on farmers. In contrast camels are much better suited to conditions in drought-hit areas. The project disseminates information on animal diseases and their treatment and also makes this data available to a web-based government-run disease monitoring system. These measures are an effective way of reducing the likelihood of epidemics.
Camels are well suited to harsh conditions as they can cope well with drought. Camels are less demanding than cattle when it comes to food and will even eat the leaves of the thorny acacia tree. Biovision is working to reintroduce camel husbandry and training people in the basic principles of livestock farming and the marketing of animal products. It is disseminating relevant information on animal diseases and how to prevent and treat them. After being adapted to suit local conditions, camel husbandry provides local people with sustainable opportunities for income generation; it also improves food security and at the same protects the sensitive ecosystem.
5,575 people, of whom 1500 are women, are benefiting directly from the activities of the project in Isiolo County: This is made up of 5,000 livestock farmers, 135 traders in camel milk, 405 recipients of camels and 35 government employees from the veterinary medicine service. A further 56,000 members of the region’s nomadic communities are benefiting indirectly. They have been given valuable information on camel husbandry and the local marketing of camel milk.
Objectives of current project phase
The aim of the project is to strengthen the resilience of pastoral communities in Kenya to changes in climate, in particular to drought. The reintroduction of camel farming, the sale of camel milk and the control of diseases that affect other livestock are designed to improve the food security and incomes of pastoral families and also to achieve a general improvement in animal health.
Camel husbandry has made a significant contribution to improving the lives of the pastoral families living in Isiolo County. The female camels provide 3-10 litres of milk each day. Families consume on average 1-2 litres for their own use; this improves food security and reduces malnutrition. The remaining milk is sold through the local milk cooperative in Isiolo and earns a familiy about 500 KES (about 5 CHF) per day. This income can be used in various ways, e.g. to pay their children’s school fees. The young male camels are sold for about 50,000 KES (about 460 CHF).
Links have been established between camel owners and government veterinary officers so that beneficiaries have 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.