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Environment

This Scottish Cafe Is Selling 'Camel Milk Coffee' for a Brilliant Reason

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Big problems need radical responses, right? 

Give humanity an ecological apocalypse, and it comes up with space-age ideas to fight it: a robot that literally sucks carbon dioxide from the air; a giant netting device to sift plastic out of the ocean; vertical gardens that clean up air pollution.

But one café in Glasgow, Scotland, is thinking differently — with its own stirring solution to help people in the world’s poorest countries adapt to climate change. 

It all starts with a cup of coffee.

From Wednesday, the Willow Tea Rooms will be selling cappuccinos made from camel milk.

The “camelccinos” will cost £2.40, with 10% of all profits donated to a project run by an Edinburgh-based humanitarian group called Mercy Corps — an organisation also supported by the British government and UK aid — that supports camel milk traders in Kenya.

“When we were approached about camel milk, we looked into its properties and found out that it’s healthier and higher in vitamin C and iron than cow’s milk,” said Anne Mulhern, owner of Willow Tea Rooms. “We’ve road-tested it and our customers loved it. Camel milk cappuccinos could become a permanent feature on our menus.”

But how can a coffee in Glasgow help a farmer in Kenya?

In the last year, large swathes of Kenya have been hit by extreme weather. Climate change has brought both harsh drought and rainfall four times heavier than normal — meaning that the ground cannot absorb the excess rain, leading to flooding.

And that means severe food insecurity as livestock and resources are devastated by wildly fluctuating conditions.

But camel milk — dubbed “white gold” by food experts — has become a lifesaving commodity.

Camels are far more capable of surviving intense heat for long periods of time than other animals, and famously require less water. 

Not only that, but their milk is actually more nutritious than cow milk: it contains 10 times more iron and three times more vitamin C, according to the National. 

It’s also more sustainable — camels produce way less methane than cows, and therefore contribute less greenhouse gas emissions throughout their lifetime.

Mercy Corps supports 141 female traders in Wajir, Kenya, to make selling camel milk as accessible as possible.

The organisation says it purchased a van with a solar-powered cooling device to keep the milk cold as it was transported, and bought refrigerated milk dispensers for the traders so that it wouldn’t go off until it was sold. It’s such a popular product that the milk is even reportedly distributed through an ATM machine to keep it chilled.

Mercy Corp has also invested in a community radio station to help broadcast climate information. 

Related Stories May 16, 2019 Thomson Reuters Foundation Camel Milk Provides Nutrition During Devastating Kenya Drought

In addition to the fundraising from the Willow Tea Rooms, the project in Wajir has been supported by Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID).

It’s part of its lifesaving UK aid spending — the money the government uses to tackle the shocking inequality that in 2015 left 736 million people living in extreme poverty around the world, officially defined as living on less than $1.90 (£1.50) a day.

“We are delighted to be partnering with DfID to bring you camelccinos for the first time ever in Scotland,” said Simon O’Connell, executive director at Mercy Corps. “We hope this fun initiative will help highlight the importance of supporting communities on the frontlines of climate change to find ways to adapt and improve their livelihoods.”

“Currently, most of Kenya’s camel milk is consumed domestically, but if camelccinos become popular in Scotland this could open up exciting export opportunities for Kenyan farmers in the future,” added new International Development Secretary Rory Stewart.

DfID also supports other work from Mercy Corps, including providing clean water and cash for people to buy food in Yemen — currently experiencing the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world,” according to the United Nations.