Camel milk is a critical product for both consumers and businesses in Somaliland, according to Agrilinks, an information platform part of the US government’s Feed the Future initiative.
Traditionally used by pastoralist households for consumption or as a gift exchanged between friends or family, it’s played an important role in providing nutrition for arid-zone populations in several East African countries. More recently, the camel milk market in Somaliland has expanded as a business activity, due in part to a 2001 ban on livestock exports from Somalia.
Evidence from the research organization RTI International shows that dairy companies see great economic potential in the camel milk market and are actively seeking support from producers to expand their businesses. Demand for the product is increasing – with camel milk kiosks selling out of product on a near daily basis – thanks to its nutritional properties and the camel’s unique ability to produce milk during drought.
In order to better understand the structure of the camel milk market and the business case for private-sector dairy companies, RTI undertook a value chain analysis in Somaliland. The analysis found that, overall, the camel milk value chain is characterized by informal yet vibrant linkages between actors, from pastoralists to aggregators to vendors. Through 65 interviews with a variety of market actors, several distinct challenges and opportunities throughout the value chain were identified:
- There is unmet demand and potential for growth in the market.
- Food safety can be improved through quality standards, increased use of aluminum cans and more access to bulk cold storage, especially during aggregation and transport.
- The sector could benefit from increased access to finance at all levels, as well as mechanisms for value chain actors to mitigate their risks through insurance schemes.
- There are opportunities to build more trust between women who are operating in the markets and the male dairy owners who operate their own kiosks. Building the capacity of those women to better understand the market demand and to manage their supplies more effectively will increase their competitiveness in the value chain.
Africa is home to an estimated 86% of the world’s camels. The urbanized public is slowly but surely realizing the value of camel milk, which is beneficial for lactose-intolerant consumers and has less cholesterol, according to Kenyan entrepreneur Hassan Bashir who is tapping into the camel milk opportunity through his company Nourishing Nomads. The company aims to produce 30,000 liters of camel milk a day in Kenya’s Wajir County within the next five years.
“We will have an ultra-modern camel milk processing plant in Wajir. We will get milk from the producer families in an organized way, without any additives, and pay the families at their point of production. From there it will be transported via motorbike to chillers that are stationed in villages and then, via our logistics division, we will bring it to the Nourishing Nomads plant. Here we will add value by processing it into a diversified range of products. Then it goes back to the retail trader,” Bashir explained.