He left his prestigious legal practice in the United States of America to return back to Kenya, his motherland, having practised law in the foreign land for nearly two decades to come back to set up a startup that processes and sells camel milk.
Meet Jamah Warsame 43, the proprietor of White Gold Camel Milk processors situated in Thingithu estate on the outskirts of Nanyuki town, Laikipia County. He says the venture started in the year 2017 after he returned from the US to see his family that stayed here in Kenya.
“I flew to Kenya often to see my family since they lived here and it was in one of those visits that I got the idea to start processing camel milk for sale from my wife and mother in law who had coincidentally worked for camel milk distribution firm but had folded after the owner died and the idea struck me as worth trying bearing in mind the health benefits of the milk from the desert animal,” Warsame said in an interview at his processing plant recently.
He immediately embarked on setting up the business by first enrolling at the Dairy Training Institute to learn about milk handling and after registering the entity he was given clearance by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) to deal in food products, he made his first sales in November 2017.
“I also had to consult doctors and dieticians on the health benefits of camel milk and I was amazed at how much the milk is beneficial to humans unlike dairy milk from cows where in some instances people develop allergies and side effects,” he added.
Warsame says the camel milk, apart from being a good source of calcium, vitamin B and C, has natural amounts of non-saturated fatty acids that has numerous medicinal benefits such as boosting immunity, helps in managing diabetes, improves blood circulation, lowers arthritis and is good in combating several allergies in humans.
He says his processing plant that employs 10 workers has a capacity to pasteurise and package 700 litres of camel milk a day but currently the daily production ranges between 120 litres to 160 litres adding that they buy milk from farmers at between Sh. 100 and Sh. 120 depending on the season’s supply.
“We are constrained due to limited financing and bearing in mind retail outlets take long to pay on deliveries. We are currently seeking for a partner who can inject funding to expand this enterprise even to other counties in Northern Kenya where camels are reared,” he said.
Warsame further added that the demand for camel milk in the country is overwhelming following increased awareness on its health benefits adding that he has been unable to sustain orders from retailers and home deliveries that extend as far as Kampala in neighbouring Uganda.
He adds that among the main outlets in demand of the milk include major retail chain supermarkets across the country, Agha Khan and Kenyatta Hospitals and the University of Nairobi and Moi University where studies on the treatment of autism in children is being carried out.
“Sometimes we are forced to work so late into the night while doing the packaging in an effort to meet customer demands that are growing by the day,” he said.
The White Gold Camel Milk Processors General Manager, Dr. John Oguk says that the firm receives camel milk from eight recommended suppliers whose animals have been certified to produce quality product twice a day where the milk is weighed, tested for adulteration and bacterial infection before it is pasteurised at 80 degrees centigrade in state of the art boilers and later cooled to 40 degrees centigrade and then packaged in half litre containers ready for distribution to retail outlets.
“Milk is very sensitive, therefore we ensure we get quality product from select farmers whom we have trained on its handling and also, carry out monthly checks on the camels being milked to ensure that they don’t have to suffer from mastitis infection as this could compromise the quality,” Dr. Oguk said.
A veterinary doctor with over 30 years’ experience in animal husbandry, Dr. Oguk who doubles up as the production manager at the processing plant says that to get quality processed camel milk, they encourage farmers not to stay for more than four hours after milking before delivery to the plant since it will be fresh and free of bacteria that can cause food poisoning if taken by people.
Once the milk is packaged, Dr. Oguk says it is transported to various outlets in cool boxes to ensure its freshness and the retail outlets are encouraged to sell it while refrigerated.
He adds that the milk can stay fresh for many months while refrigerated and is best consumed at 3 degrees centigrade and can be used to make tea or as an additive to food or porridge.
The processed milk packaged in half-litre containers is sold in wholesale to retail outlets at Sh. 130 per piece who then sell the same at prices ranging from Sh. 165 to Sh. 200.
Warsame says he hopes the business venture will give hope to pastoralist farmers who keep camels that the animal’s milk can be a good source of income and not just rely on its meat and hides.
The entrepreneur opines that Kenya with the fifth largest camel herds in the world after Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Mauritania has great potential in emerging as a leading producer of camel milk.
He adds that the few camel milk suppliers in the country mostly supply unprocessed product to markets such as Nairobi, Mombasa and Nakuru hopes to carve a niche in the market as a reliable producer of processed and quality products. His venture is also processing yoghurt and flavoured milk on orders.
The entrepreneur, however, regrets that Laikipia County government has done little to support camel farmers in the area by failing to assist in exploring new markets for camel milk outside the region and setting up collection centres and installation of cooling and processing plants.
By Martin Munyi