Kenya: Camel milk provides nutrition during drought

Experts say camels could fight malnutrition in the region.


With a growth in camel milk products available — from chocolate bars to baby milk formula and ice cream to "camelcino" coffees — there is a growing demand from consumers from North America to China, market experts say.

Climate change is a growing threat in Kenya and is making drought and humanitarian disasters worse across Africa, international aid agencies warn.

The number of people in need of food aid in Kenya has risen by almost 70%, to 1.1 million, since August 2018, due largely to poor rains, the government said.

In 2017, Kenya declared drought a national disaster and earlier this year announced it had allocated 2 billion shillings (about $20 million) to respond.

Extreme weather has pushed wandering nomads to bank on camels — and their milk — as a drought-safe investment with Kenya now the world's second largest producer of camel milk after neighbouring Somalia.

Camel milk is especially nutritious for young children and the elderly.

The milk, commonly drunk in countries from the United Arab Emirates to Chad and Mongolia, has a vitamin C content three times as rich as cow's milk, according to the FAO, and can benefit those who lack access to a varied and balanced diet.

Minister Yussuf Abdi Gedi hopes wider interest in camel milk could stem poverty in the region and entice investment.

Some sip camel milk lattes or "camelcinos" in trendy cafes in Nairobi's central business district.

Global interest in camel milk is growing, said Simpkin, who expects greater investment and research in coming years into its health benefits.

But rural Kenyan people also will prosper, he said, as camels remain "one of the best adapted animals" to cope with a fast changing climate.