The magic of camel products
For many Somalis, the camel is a gift of nature – the source of milk, meat and skin, a beast of burden in the desert, for entertainment and reassurance in times of crisis. It is also used in agricultural work (pulling).
An animal of haughty and cantankerous reputation in Somalia, the camel is celebrated in songs and folklore as a symbol of status and prosperity and exchange in weddings, religious events, funerals, conflict resolution and entertainment. of beauty.
In Wajir County located in the northeastern part of the country and covering an area of 56,686 km2, with an estimated population of 727,965 people, animal production which involves the rearing of camels and other animals supports the economy.
Camels are important to Somali culture because one is considered wealthy or can rise in social status by the number of animals he owns. Camels still produce milk during the drought that appeals to nomads who can spend a month in arid lands consuming nothing else.
According to figures from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Kenya has an estimated 3,338,757 million camels and the fourth largest camel population in the world after Chad, Somalia and Sudan.
Nationally, Mandera leads with 1,016,970 million animals, followed by Turkana, 832,462 and Wajir with 533,651 animals.
Kenya is the world’s second largest producer of camel milk after Somalia, producing 876,224 tonnes of milk in 2017, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
According to Yusuf Abdi Gedi, a member of the County Livestock and Agriculture Executive Committee (CECM), camel milk and meat are a good source of nutrients, especially in arid and urban areas of Wajir County. . Camel milk and meat are unique compared to the milk and meat of other ruminants in terms of composition as well as health effects.
“Camel milk has low cholesterol, a high mineral content (sodium, potassium, iron, copper, zinc and magnesium) and a high vitamin C content compared to other ruminant milk. Camel milk contains various fatty acids, enzymes and protective proteins. Camel milk has potential therapeutic effects, such as antibacterial, antiviral, antidiabetic, anti-aging and anti-carcinogenic, ”explains Gedi.
Dr Antony Ngugi, director of the Griftu Breeding Training Institute in Wajir, which conducts research on breeding species in the county, says the medicinal properties of camel milk can be attributed to the presence of protein protective, which may eventually play a central role in improving the immune defense mechanism.
Not only camel milk, Dr. Ngugi points out, but also camel meat in general is considered a functional food for cures and the remedy for many ailments such as seasonal fever, sciatica, pain in the stomach. shoulder, asthma, freckle removal and improved sexual performance in many cases. cultural events around the world.
Dromedaries produce more milk of high nutritional quality and for longer than other species in an environment that can rightly be described as hostile in terms of extreme temperature, drought and lack of pasture.
Dr Ngugi says studies show camel milk has insulin-like activity, regulatory and immunomodulatory functions on β cells. It exhibits a hypoglycemic effect when given as an adjunct, which could be due to the presence of insulin / insulin-like protein, and has a beneficial effect in the treatment of diabetic patients. Additionally, camel milk has been used for the treatment of food allergies and autism.
Very recently in 2016, a study examined the medicinal values of camel milk focusing on the chemical composition of camel milk which found that camel milk generally has an opaque white color and has a slight sweet odor and pungent taste. ; sometimes it can be salty.
“Its opaque white color is due to the finely homogenized fats in the milk, while the taste changes are caused by the type of forage and the availability of potable water. Its density varies from 1.026 to 1.035 and the pH from 6.2 to 6.5; both are lower than those of cow’s milk, and the maximum buffering capacity of skimmed milk is at pH 4.95 ”, explains Dr. Ngugi.
The physiological stage, feeding conditions, season, physiological variations, genetic makeup and health status of the camel have been reported to influence the composition of camel milk. In general, the average amount of components of camel milk is 3.4% protein; fat 3.5%; 4.4% lactose; ash 0.79%, while water covers 87%
Various minerals such as Na, K, Ca, P, Mg, Fe, Zn, Cu and vitamins (A, E, C and B1) are present in camel milk. The trace element values were significantly higher in camel milk compared to cow’s milk. The concentration of vitamin C in camel milk is two to three times higher than in cow’s milk.
The low pH due to a higher concentration of vitamin C stabilizes the milk and, therefore, it can be stored for relatively longer periods without forming a cream layer. The availability of a relatively higher amount of vitamin C in camel milk is of significant nutritional importance, as it exerts potent antioxidant activity.
Vitamin A, E and B1 levels have been reported to be low in camel milk compared to cow’s milk. Cow’s milk contains a carotene that is lacking in camel’s milk, Dr. Ngugi noted.
Julius Mwangi, an animal production worker, argues that camel meat is healthier because the carcass contains less fat and has lower fat cholesterol levels than other meat animals and is also relatively high in fatty acids. polyunsaturated compared to beef.
“It is an important factor in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, which is linked to the consumption of saturated fat. Camel meat is also used for curative purposes for diseases such as hyperacidity, hypertension, pneumonia and respiratory ailments, ”observes Mwangi, a range management expert.
On the other hand, the composition of camel meat varies depending on the type of breed, age, sex, body condition and location of the carcass. The water content differs only slightly from one species to another, while the differences in fat content are more marked. Camel meat contains 70-77% moisture. It is also a good source of protein containing around 20-23%.
Camel meat, like other red meats, contains high levels of potassium followed by phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, and calcium, along with lower percentages of other trace minerals. The calcium content of camel meat is higher than that of beef, which may partly explain the tight structure of some cuts of camel meat.
The levels of amino acids and inorganic minerals in camel meat are high compared to beef due to the lower levels of fat content in camel meat, observes Mwangi.
Several epidemiological studies have linked health problems such as obesity and a high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol with increased consumption of animal products.
This has led to concerns that total dietary fat intake may be limited by consuming smaller portions less frequently or by replacing red meat consumption with white meat. “The growing evidence of low cholesterol and fat in camel meat could potentially support its safety as a better alternative to meats high in fat and cholesterol such as mutton and beef,” observes Mwangi. .