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Work with Rajasthan's camel herders: German scientist wins World Cookbook Award 2023

By Rosamma Thomas* 

Gourmand World Cookbook Awards are the only awards for international food culture. This year, German scientist Ilse Kohler Rollefson, founder of Camel Charisma, the first of India’s camel dairies, in Pali district of Rajasthan, won the award for her work with camel herders in Rajasthan, and for preparing for the UN International Year of Camelids, 2024. 
The award honours the best books in food culture, and was announced in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; the award event this year was hosted by the Ministry of Culture, Saudi Arabia.
Ilse Kohler Rollefson’s book Hoofprints on the Land: How Traditional Herding and Grazing can Restore the Soil and Bring Animal Agriculture Back in Balance with the Earth was published by Chelsea Green Publishing, UK, earlier this year. 
Her first book, Camel Karma, detailing her experience with the Raika herders of Rajasthan, was re-issued by Speaking Tiger.
Ilse Kohler Rollefson shows how herding is not “backward”, as commonly understood, but a model of regenerative agriculture that could restore soil and human health. Herding is the way forward, to produce food more sustainably and equitably; traditional herding practices are under enormous pressure as land is taken over for “development” and traditional grazing areas have shrunk.
When camel milk was first made commercially available in Rajasthan, a protracted case had to be fought through India’s legal system to asset that the milk of camels was safe for human consumption – traditionally, the Raika, who believe that they were entrusted the care of camels by Lord Shiva, would not sell the milk, but offer it free to whoever needed it.
With camels now not needed for transport in the desert, herders were finding it difficult to maintain their herds. The sale of milk and milk products is offering, again, a chance for the herders to make a living from their camels. There are also unique properties in camel milk that make it especially useful for children with autism, and for the treatment of several chronic conditions.
To conserve the nomadic herding lifestyle, though, there is need to conserve the environment that sustains the camels and their herders. That is the challenge that Lokhit Pashu Palak Sansthan, the NGO working among herders in Rajasthan, is attempting to draw global attention to, during the 2024 year of camelids declared by the United Nations.
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*Freelance journalist

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