Kenya and the Horn of Africa as a whole are currently facing a severe drought, and Isiolo County is no exception.
In this context, camels present many advantages: they produce milk even during dry periods while cows don’t, but they also need much less water than cattle, and their milk is very high in vitamin C and minerals such as iron. Camel milk covers more than half the calorific intake in many pastoralist communities, and they are excellent pack animals and popular meat providers. Moreover, their soft, plate-like soles have minimal impact on soil and plants, which is particularly important in such countries where extreme weather patterns result notably in rangelands degradation. They can also eat thorny leaves, and when the pastures have been grazed by shoats and cattle, camels still find food in the trees as they reach leaves up to 3 meters’ height.
However, not all pastoralist communities are used to camel husbandry, lacking traditional knowledge on camel herding and management. This is why Vétérinaires Sans Frontières Suisse provides the concerned communities solid trainings in camel rearing, camel health, milk hygiene and processing. On top of that, this project has a special focus on women, who are very often the most vulnerable members of the communities.
Through camel herding, this project is aimed at ensuring livelihoods and increasing food security. For this purpose, VSF-Suisse has worked with five communities of Isiolo County to identify their most vulnerable households, such as those in dire need of assistance, women-headed households or families with a very high number of dependents, and these households have benefited from camel restocking.
The beneficiaries have been trained on camel husbandry practices, such as camel breeding, management and feeding, but also camel products and value addition. They have been introduced to common camel diseases, and they have learned how to prevent and treat them. Camel healthcare has been provided, the animals have been dewormed, vaccinated and treated.
Pastoralists have continuously been learning from the trained camel restocked beneficiaries on how to rear and manage camels appropriately. Veterinary and livestock services providers now benefit from a higher visibility, and the skills and knowledge learned by them during the project will help a wide section of the pastoralist communities in Isiolo County.
The current drought adding to resource scarcity, camel milk and products are vital. Today, the availability of camel milk for both domestic use and sale is increasing, which benefits the whole communities and impacts positively on food security. The sale of these products also improves livelihoods.
In this respect, and as gender issues constitute an important concern of this Project, we support women groups involved in camel milk marketing, value addition and milk processing. During the project, they will be trained on milk hygiene and learn how to make camel cheese and yoghurt.
A particularly advanced women group is the Anolei Women Camel Milk Cooperative, who has been taught business management skills. They have been introduced to a local bank to organize the banking of their revenues and to qualify for a loan that will help them to purchase a vehicle. They will repay the loan from the milk sale revenues and their vehicle will transport all camel milk from Isiolo to Nairobi, an initiative that has already started to inspire more groups dealing with camel milk to go up to Isiolo. Initiatives such as the Anolei Women Camel Milk Cooperative also enable the communities to mobilize their own savings.
Another aspect of this project is concerning technology: a newly developed app will help in livestock disease reporting. It will be especially useful given that the drought is so intense that animal diseases are on the rise, and even the most resistant are not immune: the situation is such that we also see an increase in camel diseases. Moving the livestock to reserved grazing areas is not easy: these areas are often very far away and insecure. Thus, technology can help to monitor animal diseases and to achieve this objective smart phones have been bought and distributed to future community disease reporters among pastoralists and local authorities.
In this project addressing development and gender inequalities, VSF-Suisse works closely with the communities and their skills on community development are thus enhanced and recognized.
Biovision, City of Küsnacht, Canton Aargau, Karl Mayer Stiftung