Haramaya Camel Dairy

Start date
January 1, 2013
End date
February 28, 2018
Project code
Total grant
Contact person
Egon Bech Hansen

Camels are popular domestic animals in arid and semiarid regions of Africa and the Middle East. Camels are held mainly as dairy animals, but also for the meat and for transportation. The largest camel population is found in East Africa, around the Horn of Africa in Somalia, Sudan, and Ethiopia. The camels in Ethiopia amounts to 2.5 millions.
Camel milk is mainly consumed raw in the local area without the use of modern distribution channels. The development of a dairy industry has been limited by the fact that neither butter nor cheese could be manufactured from camel’s milk, limiting the product to be liquid milk. Through the use of modern biotechnology the conditions have now fundamentally changed, as camel chymosin is now commercially available as a dairy enzyme. Through this project we will conduct the research needed to create the foundation for product development of camel dairy products.
The research will be conducted in Denmark and Ethiopia. We will build the scientific and educational competencies at Haramaya University where also the dairy pilot plant will be modified to allow processing of camel’s milk. In the course of the project we expect to educate two scientists to the level of Ph D as well as ten M Sc in Dairy Technology.


Project completion report:

The project “Haramaya Camel Dairy” have removed obstacles for processing camel milk and developed a range of high quality camel milk dairy products. The procedures and processes have been described and made available for anyone to use. Ten young researchers have been educated through the project, two at PhD level and eight at Master level. Haramaya University now has the capacity to support the emerging Ethiopian camel dairy industry. A wider implementation of camel milk dairy technology will benefit the nutritional status of particularly children and it will improve a traditional drought resilient pastoral husbandry. The food security and drought resilience will increase.

The project has created the foundation for a wide implementation, in Ethiopia and all other camel rearing regions in Africa and Asia. The project team at Haramaya University is actively engaged in implementing the technology at two new camel dairy plants in Ethiopia.

Good story
The project, ”Haramaya Camel Dairy”, has devised methods to produce camel dairy products with longer shelf life than raw milk. The processing of camel milk to cheese and fermented milks in dairy processing plants is now possible. The production of a soft white brined cheese and the evolution of cheese quality during 60 days of storage have been described. The quality remains excellent and the shelf life will be well beyond the two months.
The project also removed a bottleneck for the production of fermented products from camel milk. Commonly used dairy starter cultures do not show a satisfactory acidification in camel milk, and the generally accepted explanation was that camel milk had antimicrobial properties inhibiting lactic acid bacteria. We have conclusively shown that the bottleneck is proteolysis rather than antimicrobials.

We have identified commercial cultures with acceptable activity in camel milk and we have isolated new lactic strains from various Ethiopian camel milk samples. Those strains will become the backbone for dairy cultures specifically designed for the emerging camel dairy industry.
The scientific and technological foundation for a sustainable camel dairy industry across Africa and Asia has been established through the research project conducted at Haramaya University.

The scientists at Haramaya University are actively involved in the tech-transfer to dairy plants in Ethiopia and we are searching for funding and partners to implement the technology in other camel rearing regions in Africa and Asia.