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Camel, an animal that is highly treasured among the Somalis

Besides transport value, their milk, meat and hide are all beneficial

In Summary

• Camels still produce milk during drought season unlike cows, goats and sheep

• A herder with 100 camels says he prefers them due of their drought-resistant nature

A header gives his camels water in Saka, Balambala subcounty, Garissa
A header gives his camels water in Saka, Balambala subcounty, Garissa
Image: STEPHEN ASTARIKO

Camels are important to Somali culture because one is considered wealthy or can rise in social status by the number of animals he has.

Camels still produce milk during drought season, unlike cows, goats and sheep, which in most cases get overwhelmed by drought.

In an interview with the Star on Wednesday in the remote village of Holugho in Garissa, Abdi Mohamed a herder with 100 camels, said he prefers keeping more camels than goats and cows because of their drought-resistant nature.

“As you know, drought is a common occurrence in this part of the country. And because of that, I decided to have many camels, which can withstand the harsh climatic condition for a long period, unlike the other animals, which cannot,” Mohamed said.

A camel drinks water in Dertu village, Dadaab, Garissa
A camel drinks water in Dertu village, Dadaab, Garissa
Image: STEPHEN ASTARIKO

“When you go round the region, in most cases, the carcasses you will come across along the way are those of cows, goats and sheep. In the event you come across carcasses of camels, then know the situation is extremely serious and already out of hand.”

Mohamed said camel milk and meat are good sources of nutrients for the people living especially in the arid and urban areas of Northeastern.

“Camel milk has low cholesterol, high minerals (sodium, potassium, iron, copper, zinc and magnesium) and high vitamin C, when compared with other ruminant milk,” he said.

“Camel milk contains various fatty acids, enzymes and protective proteins. It also has potential medicinal effects, such as antibacterial, antiviral, anti-diabetic, anti-ageing and anti-carcinogenic."

The benefits of the camel do not stop at that, it is also used as a means of transport. Many are the times when you will come across pastoralists migrating from one place to another, with the camel used to move things.

A woman with her camel in Dertu,Dadaab Sub county, Garissa. camel is a treasured animal among the somali community
treasured animal A woman with her camel in Dertu,Dadaab Sub county, Garissa. camel is a treasured animal among the somali community
Image: STEPHEN ASTARIKO

Ins some instances, a temporary  structure  is erected on top of the camel, where young children are placed atop.

Mohamed said the camel hide is also useful as it is used to make bedding as well as placed on top of the grass-thatched houses to stop the rain from leaking into the house.

Nationwide, Mandera leads with 1,016,970 million camels followed by Turkana with 832,462 and Wajir with 533,651.

Kenya is the second-largest producer of camel milk in the world after Somalia, having produced 876,224 tonnes of milk in 2017, according to Food and Agricultural Organisation.

Dr Antony Ngugi is the principal of Livestock Training Institute at Griftu in Wajir, which carries out research on livestock species. He says the medicinal properties of camel milk can be attributed to the presence of protective proteins, which may possibly play a pivotal role in the enhancement of the immune defence mechanism.

The kenya livestock marketing council chairman Dubat Amey speaking to the press in his office. he said in the livestock sector has a huge potential that remain fully untapped.
livestock The kenya livestock marketing council chairman Dubat Amey speaking to the press in his office. he said in the livestock sector has a huge potential that remain fully untapped.
Image: STEPHEN ASTARIKO

Not only camel milk, Dr Ngugi says, but also camel meat in general, is considered a functional food and cure for many ailments. These include seasonal fever, sciatica, shoulder pain, asthma, removing freckles and for improved sexual performance, in many cultures around the world.

Camels produce more milk of high nutritional quality and for a longer period of time than other species in an environment that may be rightly termed as hostile in terms of extreme temperature, drought and lack of pasture.

Dubat Amey, the chairman of the Kenya Livestock Marketing Council, in an interview on Wednesday said the livestock sector is one whose full potential remains untapped.