The golden udder: marketing camel milk

Marketing milk from camels in Puntland, Somalia

by Michele Nori

In Puntland in northeastern Somalia, an elaborate system of trading milk has emerged since the early 1990s. An interesting feature of this system is that milk and its marketing are managed mainly by women, even though men own the camels and are responsible for managing, milking and selling them. This remarkable marketing system developed without any external support.  Can it be improved?

External interventions have been limited to a project by a consortium of Italian NGOs, that tried to improve milk quality in local markets. Its small-scale, low-budget community-based investments have shown a degree of success. The project provided aluminium containers through a revolving fund to improve milk hygiene, strengthened local capacities of involved stakeholders, and built basic market facilities in Qardho where milk could be stored and sold in improved conditions.

But the project’s effort to establish a big processing plant to prolong the shelf life of camel milk by pasteurizing and packaging it has faced a number of technological and institutional constraints. The ownership and control of such big investment, which came from external funding, created a number of problems, which have eventually made it of little relevance to local people.  Its main failure lies in its inability to establish links and obtain milk from the existing networks of women.

The chapter The golden udder appeared in the book “Adding value to livestock diversity: marketing to promote local breeds and improve livelihood” (, published in 2010/11 in English, French and Spanish. For more details on the Puntland case, refer to:

Nori M, Kenyanjui MB, Yusuf MA & Mohammed FH. 2006. Milking drylands: the marketing of camel milk in North-East Somalia. Nomadic Peoples 10.1.

Posted on 1 March 2012 in Pastoralism & Gender, Pastoralism & Marketing, Value of Pastoralism