Camel Magic at Rimoi Village

Camel in Rimoi

It was a strange sight when a herd of six camels arrived in Rimoi Village in Elgeyo/Marakwet County in 2008, to be reared by a farmers’ group. This sparked a demonstration by some villagers, who feared that the animals would finish grass for their cattle.
Camel rearing had never crossed their minds and they resisted the move, sending some group members scampering into hiding.
However, today, camels are treasured by the same community. They have become a game changer where milk and incomes are concerned, and many now wish they could own one of these animals. Members of the group receive a monthly income where they had none. From the camel milk proceeds are Ksh100,000 monthly. They also sell camels, earning up to Ksh50,000 per head, having paid about Ksh12,000 for each.
“The introduction of camels in our village faced a lot of resistance from the community,” recalls Mr Raphael Cheboi, the chairman of Lapkeyet group. Mr Joseph Cheboi, the patron of the group adds: “It was so serious that we had to hide from the people, who were demonstrating against us.”
Despite the challenges they faced then, they were sure that camels were the answer in the harsh dry weather of Kerio Valley. Members of the Lapkeyet group had decided to request the Community Agriculture Development Project in Semi- Arid lands (Cadsal) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock for assistance to purchase the animals. Camels are kept for transportation, meat and milk. “They can last for days without water due to their ability to store it in their humps,” says Mr Cheboi.
Cows die due to shortage of pasture, while camels are resistant since they can browse on acacia shrubs, which are also resistant to drought. Camel milk is more nutritious than cow milk. It is also believed to boost the body’s immunity and people living with HIV/Aids prefer it.
The Community Agriculture Development Project in Semi-Arid lands (Cadsal) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) a technical collaboration project with the Ministry of Agriculture provided the initial capital to purchase camels, while the National Camel Association helped to train the group and gave them five more camels. The initial resistance to the camels was quelled by the local chief, Mr Gilbert Chelimo, also a member of the group. “Camel keeping is now the envy of many in the village, with the venture in high demand,” says Mr Cheboi.
Today, from six camels the herd has risen to 42. There was another 15 camels, some which died, while others have been sold. The initial cost of the camels was Ksh12,000 for females and Ksh18,000 for a breeding bull. Today, a camel costs between Sh45,000 to Sh50,000 in the area.
The group is also benefiting from the camel’s milk proceeds. Between four and 10 camels are on lactation at a given time, with an average milk production of five litres per camel. Camels are milked three times a day and each gives on average 1.5 to two litres per milking. This brings in between 20 to 50 litres daily. About 10 to 15 litres is sold in Eldoret market while the remaining is sold locally and for home consumption. The income from an average of 30 litres daily is Ksh3,000 at Ksh100 each compared to Ksh30 to Ksh60 for cow’s milk. In a month, the group earns Ksh100,000.