GARISSA, Kenya, Jun 9 – The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) has initiated an ambitious Sh40 million plan to increase camel production in Kenya.
The money, which is expected to be released in the next financial year, will be used to establish a Camel Research Centre in Garissa, according to KARI director Ephraim Mukisira.
The project is in addition to another of Sh15 million by the Ministry of Livestock Development that will see the first ever camel dairy milk plant established in North Eastern Province, the home of camels. Here, milk will be pasteurised before being sold to cut down on losses.
“The findings from the research centre will be used to build capacities of camel farmers to enable them take up new technologies aimed at bettering camel farming,” he added.
Similarly, construction of a slaughter house for camels in Isiolo is at an advanced stage. This is intended to save farmers the hustle of transporting their animals to Mlolongo, along Mombasa Road where they are currently slaughtered.
Dr Mukirisa said his institution had already identified a 200-acre piece of land on which the research centre will be constructed. KARI has already posted an officer who will oversee the establishment of the research centre to Garissa, he added.
“The research centre will be used to carry out research work that will see the camel farming modernised and streamlined to fetch better returns to farmers,” said Dr Mukisira.
Dr Mukisira was speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing International Camel Symposium in Garissa town. The symposium, dubbed “Camel Science and Development for Sustainable Livelihoods” has been organised by KARI under its Kenya Arid and Semi Arid Lands Programme (KASAL) to seek ways of modernising camel production. It is funded by the Kenyan government and the European Union.
Twenty two countries participating in the meeting are expected to come up with ways that will enable camel farmers around the world to break away from traditional camel keeping.
The new development will see programmes developed to educate farmers on the importance of livestock rearing as well as ways of improving and increasing production of camel milk and meat.
Besides building capacities of farmers in camel keeping, farmers will also be linked to both local and international markets for their camel products.
The cash will also be used to purchase milk and meat processing equipment; including milk coolers to assists camel farmers with a view of adding value to enhance their market. Currently, farmers are incurring huge losses because their milk gets spoilt due to lack of such facilities.
The Director of Livestock Development Julius Kiptarus said his ministry would also introduce Artificial Insemination (AI) services in camel keeping to increase the population of the animals.
Kenya has an estimated one million camels benefiting some 2.5 million people. At least 80 percent of populations living in arid and semi arid areas of Kenya (making up to 50 percent of the country), depend on camels. This is compared to Sudan which has about five million camels.
The ministry will also introduce camel farming to other communities to check over reliance on other livestock. Camels are increasingly being preferred for their ability to withstand harsh weather conditions. It is also claimed that their products also have medicinal value.
“Marketing of camel milk is currently done informally. This will have to change because many people are now demanding for their products,” Mr Kiptarus said adding that the government has already received correspondence from the UK to supply her market with camel meat and milk.
He added that the ministry has also developed a manual to guide extension officers on camel keeping.
“The ministry is also striving to introduce legislations to govern livestock keeping. At the moment, we have managed to make camel farming part of the entire livestock development by including it in Sessional Paper No. 2 of 2008,” said Mr Kiptarus.
Also, markets will be enhanced to enable livestock to fetch the farmers good returns. At least about Sh49 million (USD 660,000) is realised from the sale of livestock in Garissa every Wednesday.