A case study from the Somali Region of Ethiopia
I always tried to spend my time with the camels’ related explorations and research work. This year (2023) I visited 2 important camel communities;
- 1. Dhofari camels in Salalah Oman
- 2. Somali camel community in the Somali Region of Ethiopia (Jigjiga)
Here is my take on the case study in Ethiopia
I visited 2 farms (semi-intensive camel dairies) and many mobile camel herds in the Somali Region of Ethiopia. The camels are very healthy, active, and kept at a very high level of well-being. The pastoralists and the emerging camel dairy herders are keeping camels in a very good state of situation. The camels have the freedom of roaming and grazing on natural pastures. They consume diverse types of flora, some flora are rich in nutrients for camels, some act as medicine keeping animals healthy, and some flora have higher transferability from healthy promising nutrients from the camel to the consumers through camel products, esp milk.
1. Higher demand for camel milk
There is a high demand for camel milk in the Somali region of Ethiopia, the same is the phenomenon in most parts of East, Central, and West Africa. The camel herders attain very reasonable prices for camel milk. The price per kg is 3 USD in the Somali Region of Ethiopia (SRE). The camel milk is provided to those customers who have already registered for camel milk. The milk quality is very good, coming from naturally grazing camels. The surroundings of the camel farms are very clean naturally and rich with a lot of diverse vegetation and trees. No flies, ticks, or other problems in the near surroundings were noticed. I shot many videos and images and documented a lot of facts about camel dairying in SRE.
2. Camel milk taste is driven by what they eat (sweet milk)
As for the flavor, unlike in cows, it is 100% dependent on what camels are eating. We can tell the difference between milk from camels feeding on dunes or on sebkhas (salty flats) near the sea, just a mile apart. With salty browsing, the milk leaves a pleasant salty taste on one’s lips, but from euphorbias on the dunes, it is much sweeter. When camels eat particular trees like Acacia (locally called Askaf) herders say the milk is incredibly healthy, and they love the taste, but in fact, it is a bit bitter and (to me) slightly unpleasant but the shrub grows in a particular environment and may well be as healthy as they say. Camel lactose is different from cow’s, having a different molecular structure which doesn’t cause any lactose intolerance issue. I found the strange fact that the camel milk was sweeter like honey.
3. Bottling of raw milk
It is interesting that the milk is poured directly into bottles after milking, without even filtering (e.g. through a cloth). I thought a lot about asking the camel dairy entrepreneur to filter the milk after milking but decided that the cloth would not be washed or not washed well enough, so it would be more dangerous than just delivering the milk with all the dirt in inevitably in a rural desert setting it contains sand, hair, cells, insects, dust, etc. Another factor is that consumers in that sort of setting have nice strong immune systems, so there is less risk. Also, there is no H&S inspection to require any sanitary standards. I think it is optimistic to believe that there are no pathogens or insects involved, but the operation looks nicely thought out and done. Here is the link to a video about the bottling of camel milk in SRE.