Two cameleers camel drivers with camels in dunes
Two cameleers camel drivers with camels in dunes

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by Hedi Bousnina / Jakob Staubmann

The United Nations has designated 2024 as the International Year of Camelids (IYC 2024), shedding light on the vital role that camelids play in the lives of millions of households in harsh environments across more than 90 countries, particularly Indigenous Peoples and local communities. From alpacas to Bactrian camels, dromedaries, guanacos, llamas, and vicuñas, camelids contribute to food security, nutrition, economic growth, and hold immense cultural and social significance for communities worldwide.

Camelids not only provide sustenance but also contribute to advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to combating hunger, eradicating extreme poverty, empowering women, and promoting the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems. They thrive in environments where other livestock species struggle to survive, offering milk, meat, and fiber for communities, as well as serving as a means of transportation for both goods and people. Additionally, camelids produce organic fertilizer, further enhancing their value to communities.

These remarkable animals are deeply ingrained in the culture, economy, food security, and livelihoods of communities residing in the Andean highlands and the arid and semi-arid lands of Africa and Asia, including Indigenous Peoples. Even in the face of extreme climatic conditions, camelids continue to produce fiber and nutritious food, showcasing their resilience and adaptability.

The International Year of Camelids 2024 presents a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the critical role of camelids in building resilience to climate change, particularly in mountainous regions and arid and semi-arid lands. By highlighting their ability to thrive in such challenging environments, we can inspire action towards sustainable practices and the preservation of these fragile ecosystems.

The primary objective of the International Year of Camelids 2024 is to generate awareness about the untapped potential of these remarkable animals and advocate for increased investment in the camelid sector. This includes promoting greater research, capacity development, and the adoption of innovative practices and technologies that can further enhance the contributions of camelids to sustainable development.

Investing in the camelid sector not only benefits the communities that rely on these animals but also presents an opportunity for economic growth and development. By harnessing the potential of camelids, countries can create new avenues for income generation, job creation, and trade. Moreover, the sustainable utilization of camelids can contribute to biodiversity conservation and the preservation of traditional knowledge and cultural heritage.

As we celebrate the International Year of Camelids 2024, let us recognize and appreciate the heroes of deserts and highlands. These remarkable animals nourish both people and culture, embodying resilience, adaptability, and the spirit of sustainable development. By harnessing their potential and investing in their well-being, we can create a more prosperous and sustainable future for all.

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