Camel Milk Value Addition Boosts Livestock Keepers Income in Garissa County

Camel Milk producers in Garissa County have a reason now to smile, thanks to Towfiq camel milk self -Help Group who have embraced camel milk value addition.

In the heart of Garissa town, camel milk products business booms as people from different locations flock to buy the nutritious and highly valued milk product at the Towfiq Self Help Group camel milk shop. Beautifully displayed cans of milk and coolers are what strike the eye. One by one customers stream in, some take milk on the spot, and others take away. According to Towfiq Camel Milk Self –Help Group processing camel milk at different levels of brands has facilitated a huge demand for pasteurized milk, yoghurt and fresh camel milk.

Camel milk is highly nutritious and thicker than other milk types. It does not go bad therefore can stay longer without refrigeration and still can be consumed in good condition .Some of the most important health benefits of camel milk includes its ability to prevent diabetes, improve the immune system, stimulate circulation, treat autism, lessen allergic reactions, promote growth and development, protect against certain autoimmune diseases, and boost heart health.

Fariah Bare, a middle aged woman can hardly hide her gratitude about the camel milk processing project. A vice chair of Towfiq Camel milk self Help Group, she says; ”Camel milk production in this region is our source of pride and livelihood , for a long time we have been not using camel milk that is processed and therefore locking ourselves out of the external markets which could fetch more money. Now we are happy we get value for what we produce, women have been empowered and trained on various aspects around camel milk production. Our group has been supported by REGAL-IR to set up the camel milk processing facility.”

Hussein Hassan, Chair, Towfiq Camel Self Help Group says since the group was formed in 2015, they have seen massive progress camel milk industry. ”We have witnessed a steady demand for camel milk from various villages in Garissa. I personally own 15 camels and each gives 6-7 litres of milk every day. This is a good investment for me and other livestock keepers because we are assured of the benefits. Our main vision as a group is to see the livelihoods of livestock keepers in Garissa County improved. The milk we process come from Saka, Jarerot,Dujis,Shille, Dertu, Malmin and Bura villages.

Hussein confirms how milk supply has increased at Towfiq.  ”When we started this business , we could only handle ten litres of camel milk per day, now   we get up to 500 litres and our target is to have up to 2000 litres in a day. We have four permanent employees who work in the shop where milk is processed and sold here in Garissa town. We have been able to pay them plus other costs through the profits we get from our sales.”

 “Our producers are trained on hygiene and processing by our partner, Adeso. We have a Kenya Bureau of Standards quality assurance which we received this year in January. We can now sell our milk to other consumers anywhere in Kenya without fears of quality standards.”

Towfiq Camel milk products branded as NAHY range from fresh camel milk, yoghurt and fermented milk.Tawfiq buys camel milk from producers at 40-50 (USD 0.5) ksh per litre and after processing One litre of camel fresh milk sells at 150 ksh  (USD 1.50), fermented 150ksh (USD 1.50) and yoghurt 250 ksh (USD 2.50). Production costs include, packaging costs, power and other operational costs .Hussein says they have received potential orders from local shops around Garissa, Nakumatt chain stores and Tuskys supermarkets respectively. Towfiq Camel Milk Self Help Group has 60 members where 40 are women and 20 men.

However, Towfiq Camel milk producers have some challenges too, Hussein points out climate change effects related to drought affects milk production because herders move very far when there is drought, they don’t have a cooler vehicle to transport milk and they need market linkages too.

Anthony Mureithi, Technical Advisor, Livestock Value Chain , REGAL-IR notes how the Resilience and Economic Growth in Arid Lands –Improving Resilience in Kenya (REGAL-IR) project in Kenya, funded by USAID and Feed the Future to reduce hunger and poverty had increased economic growth among pastoralists in Kenya a good example being Towfiq camel milk producers.

 “REGAL-IR strategy in camel milk value chain was to create demand for milk before addressing the supply side of the value chain .We established milk outlets, Naim and Towfiq where they have been trained on milk production/hygiene and business skills. We have since experienced a high demand for camel milk production where producers are under pressure to produce more milk, many are demanding training on how to produce hygienic milk that meet the standard of the milk and outlets and end consumers.”

Anthony concludes by encouraging more entrepreneurs to take up the challenge and invest in camel milk value chain as the benefits are evident.

Nadhif Jama, Governor, Garissa County while gracing the launch of Towfiq camel milk, thanked all the stakeholders who have seen camel milk value chain progress in his county. “This project is empowering women and we are looking into matters of expansion as a county to see producers move to the next level. We are aware of the challenges you face in this camel milk value chain and we shall work together with other partners to help you.’’

60% of Garissa County population are pastoralists who keep approximately 300,000 camels that contribute to the livestock economy of Garissa County. Some of the indigenous camel breeds found in northern Kenya are, Somali breed,Turkana and Gabra breeds.