At CJ’s Restaurant, a popular cafe in central Nairobi, manager Omar Shariff has noticed a change. Where the demand for camel milk in the past had been largely driven by the local Somali community that grew with it, today there are more and more customers requesting it.
Now, their menu includes drinks like “camel-ccinos” and “camelattes,” with plans to introduce camel products beyond drinks, such as a camel burger.
Although camel milk is consumed worldwide in other regions (including much of the Middle East, parts of Asia and Australia), its popularity in East Africa has remained largely within of rural groups. But wider interest has begun to grow, both regionally and globally, and prices have led some to call milk “white gold.”
Taking advantage of an abundant source
While it is a long-lasting daily staple for some in the region, the drink does not have an organized and widespread route to the market. In contrast, milk is most often found in informal markets across the country.
From yogurt to “camel-ccinos,” Kenyan farmers seek to formalize the sector and bring this superfood to the masses.
Even without a formalized supply chain, the sector contributes 10-12 billion Kenyan shillings ($ 90-108 million) annually to the country’s economy, says Khalif Abey of the Kenya Camel Association. .
For one of East Africa’s leading camel milk producers, White Gold Camel Milk, growth opportunities are evident. The company produces 500 liters of milk a day, and the company’s CEO, Jama Warsame, noted that local demand has led the company to diversify into other value-added products, such as camel milk. flavored and yogurt.
The appeal of adaptation
With large areas of East Africa still suffering from longer and more intense episodes of drought, camels have also emerged as an alternative food source that responds to the climate.
Camels are able to continue to produce milk even when it is difficult to get precious resources like rain.
Nick Migwi / CNN
Beyond climatic considerations, Shariff claims that a growing clientele of health-conscious consumers has driven establishments like CJ Restaurant to serve milk.
“We have several people, from gym instructors to health nutritionists, who say they have found a lot of interesting facts about camel milk and its benefits,” he says.
Overcome the hump
Although potential growth markets exist, several challenges continue to hinder the expansion of camel milk in Kenya. Limited roads and lack of infrastructure and refrigerated storage impede the large-scale production and delivery of dairy.
To expand the sector, the camel milk industry in Kenya is driving a more formal value chain.
Nick Migwi / CNN
“Where most ranchers live, it’s a harsh environment. We have to invest in refrigerated trucks. We have to invest in making a collection center,” Warsame says.
For a sector based on a network of small family farms, the development of the industry to export to profitable markets abroad also presents other obstacles.
“It is very difficult to meet international standards for disease management and control in a multitude of milk markets produced by small producers,” Hewett notes.
Despite the challenges, industry leaders are pushing for a formal value chain to be established. With adequate infrastructure, the Kenya Camel Association says the sector could have an estimated value of $ 200 million a year and affect between 10 and 12 million households in northern Kenya whose livelihoods depend on them. animals.
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