HOHHOT, China, (Reuters Life!) - Wildlife activist Namujileicemu loves camels. In fact, he loves them so much, he wants you to eat them.

It's not quite what you would expect to hear from a conservationist, but ethnic Mongolian Namujileicemu, from China's northern region of Inner Mongolia, thinks promoting camel meat makes perfect environmental sense.

He says breeding animals for meat will help prevent desertification of the region and provide an alternative income for the herders China partly blames it on.

It's healthy, too, he adds.

"We need to provide an income for Mongolian herders. Only that way can we protect the grasslands," he told Reuters in regional capital Hohhot over a lunch of stuffed camel meat pancakes on Monday.

"It's a natural meat. It has no chemicals in it. It can fight cancer too," added Namujileicemu, who works for the Alashan Camel and White Cashmere Goat Association and like many Mongolians goes by one name.

China is fighting severe desertification in Inner Mongolia, which it blames on overgrazing. Some rights groups say the government has forced Mongolian herders from the land, without providing them with suitable alternative means of living.

Namujileicemu said the herders, who have grazed the grasslands for centuries, were the key to solving the problem, and should not be blamed for the spreading deserts.

"We must return the grasslands to their original state using traditional ways," he said. "Camels can help with that."

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard, editing by Miral Fahmy)