Camel Herders, Middlewomen, and Urban Milk Bars: The Commodification of Camel Milk in Kenya

David M. Anderson, Hannah Elliott, Hassan Hussein Kochore, Emma Lochery

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Camel dairy products have long been recognised as important in pastoralist livelihoods in northern Kenya, but only in recent years has camel milk been marketed commercially in the urban centres of the region. This article charts the commodification of camel milk in Isiolo, considering the evolution from simple urban hawking, led by female vendors, to commercial retail sales and international exports involving investment of higher levels of capital. Gender labour dynamics, and capital investment, emerge as critical themes in this story of camel milk's commodification. The formalisation and regularisation of camel milk sales has inevitably led to a requirement for greater professionalisation and firmer control of production, moving away from the itinerant women who initially pioneered the commodification and towards camel owners who have greater levels of education and who are better able to capitalise the trade.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Eastern African Studies
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)383-404
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Camel milk
  • Urbanisation
  • Sedentarisation
  • Gender
  • Pastoralists
  • Northern Kenya

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