The Kenyan government is set to unveil a new camel drug to help increase productivity in the country and in turn improve livelihoods in the Horn of Africa.
In a study that will take three years, the current drug being used to treat camel has been in the market for over 20 years and has been showing resistance and ineffectiveness.
Camel keepers from the North especially Isiolo and Marsabit have been grappling with the Camel Trypanosomiasis disease commonly known as Surra that has caused high mortality reduction of milk production and loss of body condition in animals.
Speaking Friday during the launch of the research project study, Judith Chemuliti, the Director of Kenya’s Biotechnology Research Institute (BioRI) said despite its socio-economic significance, Surra has received minimal and sporadic research and control attention by government and development agencies.
“We will undertake research and develop, package and communicate control methods to upgrade the complex problem of Surra in the Somali Ecosystem,” she said.
She added that in the region, camel is a source of milk for consumption and sale, transport and draft power, asset accumulation and a beacon of resilience during drought and stress.
Chemuluti, who is the principal investigator in the project, pointed out that once the study is complete, the drug will replace triquin that has been in existence for the longest time.
“Triquin’s ineffectiveness is blamed for the spread of Surra, a camel trypanosomiasis disease that is a constraint to camel production for the communities in northeastern,” she said.
Chemuluti said that the research will come up with an integrated control package before it is disseminated to County governments who will, in turn, give it to farmers in order to improve the productivity of meat and milk and also translate lives.
The Study, Chemuluti noted, will cost Sh 70 million (USD700,000) and is being funded by the African Union and done in North Western Somalia (Somaliland) and North Eastern Kenya
Joining with Somali, the Principal Investigator said the research will be effective especially in handling the disease considering Somali ecosystem is one continuous belt due to the trans-border trade.
Unlike other livestock species kept, camels are affected most by Surra due to an abundance of its biting flies that lead to infection rates of 20 to 70 percent in camel herds.
According to Chemuliti beneficiaries of the research will be camel keepers through increased production of milk, higher off-take of live animals and reduced production costs.
The Research, she said plans to come up with evidence-based integrated technologies and approaches that will optimize efficiency in camel production, minimize production losses and avoid geographical spreading of camel trypanosomiasis.
County Director Veterinary Service from Isiolo County Dr. Joseph Nduati Githinji said the research could not have come at a better time especially to over 45,000 camels that the county has.
“’Camel milk is a major economy for the community and we sell over 3000 liters of camel milk at producer price Ksh 150 per liter that comes to Nairobi daily,” he said.
Githinji noted that recently the County has put up a camel milk processing factory that is also making yogurt from the camel milk, one camel meat processing plant that produces camel sausages and they have also put up an export abattoir that is in the last stages of completion.
Githinji said more people in the area are getting into Camel production because of the resistance of the animal that withstands drought noting that the research will, therefore, be able to address the issue of disease thus go a long way in helping the community and increasing their production.
“Our camel sale is towards Ethiopia who buy a lot from us and the prices of the camel is also going up and getting better as we are able to sell an adult camel for almost Ksh 100,000 per animal which is good for producers”, Githinji said.
Dr. WarioSori, Chief Officer Livestock in Marsabit County said there has been very lean literature on Camel and any study to be done on Camel will be coming closer to the community to promote their livelihoods.
“80 percent of this community relies on livestock and we have a population of over 200,000 camels. This research will be a good opportunity for us since we have been having a challenge on camel diseases especially with no reference in terms of disease control”. Wario said.
Initially, Wario said the veterinarian who has not been trained on camel diseases were treating camels based on clinical treatments not knowing which diseases they were treating but just to give support to the animals.
The Community, Wario said have a lot of value attached to camel milk and meat thus they will support in the study.
Eluid Kireger, the Director General of Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) said that the study will help benefit the regional countries by enhancing livestock production.
Kireger said that it is hoped that once the disease is managed in the region, camel products will find market internationally.
“The study will help improve livelihoods and food security in the Horn of Africa by increasing trans-border trade in the region,” Kireger said
The Study will help contribute to pro-poor pastoral development through sustainable intensification of pastoral livelihoods and is running under the title “Intensifying Camel Productivity through Integrated Control of Surra within the Somali Ecosystem and the Horn of Africa. Kenya has around 3 million Camels.
By Wangari Ndirangu