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In Kenya, your next coffee could be a “camel-ccino”

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(CNN) – Although the tea may be from Kenya the largest export, a new drink is being prepared in central Nairobi: cappuccinos made with a little camel milk.

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.”

“Camel milk in the international market is incredibly lucrative,” says David Hewett, manager of the Mpala research center on the Laikipia plateau, north of central Kenya. “Half a liter of finished milk ranges from $ 10 to $ 20,” he says, compared to conventional cow’s milk which sells for about 50 cents per liter in the US.

Taking advantage of an abundant source

The African continent is home 80% of the world’s camels, with approximately 60% residing in East Africa. In Kenya, more than four million camels roam the country’s pastoral lands, a number that has quadrupled since 1999, according to the Kenya Camel Association.

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.

According to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) of Kenya, Kenyans lived through 23 counties they face a reduction in food supply due to the drought and will need food aid in the next six months. Unlike herds of cows and sheep, camels can go there 100 miles without water and can keep their cold at temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. “It provides cover in dry seasons as pressure is put on traditional livestock,” says Hewett, because “camels will continue to produce milk.”

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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.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (IOM) states that camel milk has triples the amount of vitamin C compared to cow’s milk. Ongoing studies They have also shown that milk can lower cholesterol and improve digestive disorders.

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.

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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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