Camels – Helping people escape the drought in East Africa


November 7th, 2011

Intrigued by ‘A Field Manual of Camel Diseases’ (on special offer at our bookshop www.developmentbookshop.com) I decided to find out why camels are so important.

As I write, East Africa is in the grip of crippling drought. Nearly 70% of households in Mandera (one of the areas in Kenya where we work) are receiving food aid. With climate change the incidence of drought is increasing and in many ways becoming a fact of life. But relief aid is only a palliative solution and at Practical Action we understand the vital importance of long term sustainable solutions – solutions that give people hope and build ability to cope.

This is where camels come in. There are 1.8 million camels in the North Eastern Province of Kenya. They are used for milk and meat, for transport and power. Someone’s just told me the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation regard camel milk as a super food as it has three times more vitamin C than cow’s milk and even in drought conditions camels produce between 3 and 5 times as much milk as cows. But this traditional way of earning a living and feeding families in drought prone areas is being overlooked – in part because camels are not being managed and looked after properly. Preventable and curable conditions such as mastitis and internal parasite infestation account for more than 50% of diseases killing these vitally needed and precious animals. Just one reason why this book is so important.

Camels can make a significant contribution to food security and child nutrition – even in situations of extreme drought.

I never knew that, now I do – our field manual really is important.

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