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  • Amanda Perrett

More camel milk?! How high yield camels came from Pakistan to Kenya.

Laikipia, Kenya 22.06.2021 – Thirty years ago, my father, Jasper Evans, was invited to visit Pakistan by his long time friend and cattle trading partner, Saddiq Bhola, from Maralal in northern Kenya. While there, he determined to buy some of their high yielding milk camels, to import them back into Kenya to boost the yields of his low producing Turkana camels on his ranch in Laikipia, in northern Kenya.

He also persuaded his friend and fellow camel enthusiast, Father Sean McGovern, that adding higher yielding genes to the Pokot camels, where Fr Sean worked, would help the local community's milk supply. Jasper was involved in working with FARM Africa at the time, advising on camel health and management. So he also managed to get Dr Chris Field, who worked for FARM Africa, interested in importing Pakistani camels too, to increase milk yields in the Somali camels. He felt that if milk yields could be increased to give the local camel people a surplus they could turn it into condensed milk to keep for periods of shortages.

With the help and support of GTZ, FARM Africa and the Catholic Church – as well as Jasper's personal savings - they worked together to raise the necessary funds. Saddiq gave endless help with contacts for authorities to help organise any necessary licences, permits, transport etc - and of course the right places to find the camels.

Father Sean went to Pakistan with my father to help choose the camels. My father's camels were named after the area they came from, so we had bulls named Choli, Renala, Kasur, Nurpoor, etc. They bought approximately 24 camels comprising a mixture of bulls, cows with their calves at foot, and in-calf heifers.

The camels were each strapped down onto pallets and covered with a net, then air-lifted by a Boeing cargo carrier to Nairobi. In Nairobi the camels were released off their pallets and a friend, Derek Forrester, met them with his lorries, and drove them to Dr Field's camp on Mogwooni, near Nanyuki. Here they rested a few days before moving on to their new home, arriving amidst much excitement, and where they were first registered on Ol Maisor on November 26th, 1991. From there, Fr Sean's moved on to Pokot.

On getting to the ranch, at first, most of our camels from Pakistan struggled to feed as many came from areas where they fed on vegetables from the irrigations, and so at first, they didn't thrive or produce the quantities of milk hoped for. However, their locally-born progeny did much better. We say: "Our Pakistan x Somali girls (camels) are the best milkers, and the Pakistan x Turkana boys (camels) are the best for transport"!

Today the descendants of this first Pakistan / Kenya camel, continue to thrive and to produce an abundance of milk, much to the delight of people in Laikipia, Pokot and northern, and now also southern Kenya. Thank you to my father for your love and endless promotion of these amazing camels and their life-giving, healing milk, and for leaving us your hard won legacy to continue. And Asante to these ever-patient camels and their curious children for sharing their precious maziwa with us!

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