Camel milk, capital and gender in Kenya
At the 2011 Camel Conference held by the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, to examine, document and celebrate camel cultures from around the world, the paper “Camel milk, capital and gender: the changing dynamics of pastoralist dairy markets in Kenya” was presented.
Camel milk used to be a food produced and consumed on subsistence level by camel-owning pastoralist groups in the Horn of Africa. Valued for its medicinal properties, camel milk has now been transformed into a highly valued commodity around which there is a booming trade and growing international interest. The paper looks at this transformation through the activities of three camel milk enterprises in Kenya. Settlement and urbanisation of pastoralists led to high demand for camel milk among town dwellers. These new pockets of demand first prompted small-scale, informal trade operated by women from camel-owning groups. After the collapse of the Somali state, the growth of Eastleigh, Nairobi, as an urban centre with a large Somali population further fuelled the boom in the camel milk trade, leading to growing formalisation and consequently a shift in gender roles within the business. The study shows how camel-owning pastoralists are adapting to political, climatic and demographic changes in northern Kenya.