Camel cheese...

What is What Took You So Long?

This is what they say about themselves:

'We have all heard of the ‘butterfly effect’ – that a wing beat on one side of the world can eventually cause a tornado on the other. Small actions often have huge consequences. Yet people feel disempowered and hopeless in the face of ‘big’ issues like poverty or war or social injustice. ‘What difference can I make?’ they say. ‘I’m just one person, nothing I do will change anything.’

But the actions of a few can change the world. One small stone kicked down the mountain of inertia can start an avalanche of hope. Two people who firmly believe in the power of ‘just doing it’ are Swede Sebastian Lindstrom (25) and Hong Kong Brit Evan Fowler (29) who have teamed up to create the What Took You So Long Foundation.

The foundation aims to help grass roots NGOs by giving them publicity and access to a global network of unskilled and skilled volunteers.

Sebastian is an experienced documentary film maker and much of the Foundation's work is done 'on the road'. Traveling and living with communities around the world, they experience, first hand, the issues people are facing in less well-documented regions of the world – then they document, through film, the lives and experiences of those they have met. Eventually the films are distributed through local and international media and through the foundation's sponsors.

Previous projects have taken them to Africa in 2009 and Papua New Guinea earlier this year. Now they are in Mongolia researching camel cheese!

Camel's milk is used as a staple food, and valued for its health giving properties, among desert people around the world. There has been some recognition of its virtues in Europe – and various attempts to introduce it – see our report on a study in Israel which showed that it helped children with severe food allergies, our report on Dutch farmer Frank Smits' attempts to farm camels and a BBC news report in 2006. However, obstacles include the relatively small milk yield of a camel, the difficulty of turning the milk into cheese (it will not coagulate as cow's milk does with rennet) and the fact that, in the UK at least, the milk would have to be pasteurised, thereby destroying many of its health properties.

However.... Maybe Philippa and her team from What took you so long? will find a way! For now they are travelling across Mongolia, staying with and filming the people, drinking camels' milk – and learning how to milk camels! Have they tried camel cheese yet? Not as far as I can see. But they did talk to a famous Mongolian poet, Bardach Puntsag who, when asked about camel cheese, said:
I love every dairy product. When I taste camel ‘cheese’ it makes my mouth water. It tastes like fruits that are not ready to eat.

Follow their progress and learn more on their delightful site!

First published in 2010

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