Yak Conference reiterates transboundary cooperation


The Fifth International Conference on Yak was held in Lanzhou, China on 28--30 August 2014. The conference was organized by the Lanzhou Institute of Husbandry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, with the sponsorship of Yak-Camel Foundation of Germany, ICIMOD and others. ICIMOD sponsored 18 participants from the Hindu Kush Himalayan region and organized a special session titled ‘Yak Husbandry in Transboundary Context’. 

Over 150 participants, including academics, journalists, entrepreneurs and development practitioners, from 12 countries participated in the two-day conference and a one-day field trip to the yak breeding centre in Qinghai Province. At the opening ceremony, the guest speakers highlighted the economic and social importance of yaks and emphasized the need for international cooperation in science and innovative technologies for sustainable yak husbandry. 

Dr  Eklabya Sharma Director Programme Operation ICIMOD delivers in the inagural session

At the inaugural session Dr Eklabya Sharma, Director of Programme Operations at ICIMOD, introduced ICIMOD and its work to the participants, focusing on ICIMOD’s ongoing transboundary landscape initiatives. He highlighted the importance of yaks in transboundary region, and mentioned the challenges faced by yak herders. Yak herders are among the poorest, and marginalized from government policies, access to services and information. They face immense livelihood challenges, particularly due to climate change. Dr Sharma further said that ICIMOD’s regional cooperation initiatives can help attain sustainable development of yak husbandry through genetic resource, technology, knowledge and cultural exchange at the local, national and regional level. 

At the plenary session Dr Wu Ning, Theme Leader of Ecosystem Services and Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the conference, elaborated on some of the specific issues faced by yak management in the border areas of HKH and set a good tone for the upcoming ICIMOD session.   

More than 70 participants attended ICIMOD’s special session ‘Yak Husbandry in Transboundary Context’. Presenters from six member countries, including Tajikistan, shed light on the current situation of yak husbandry in Afghani Pamirs, Northern Pakistan, Upper Mustang of Nepal, Ladakh and Sikkim of India, and Bhutan respectively. Their presentations focused on the issues, challenges and opportunities faced by the yak herders in the border area and highlighted the importance of traditional knowledge and cross-border cooperation for ensuring the welfare of yak communities affected by geopolitical factors. 

In the concluding session Dr Eklabya Sharma said, “ICIMOD, as a regional institution, can facilitate regional exchange of both knowledge and genetic resources.” He also said that we need to look into the new opportunities that are coming up, such as Yak Polo and Trophy Hunting. One of the main recommendations was to establish Yak Corridors/ Yak Sanctuaries that can serve as a means of genetic exchange between isolated populations in different countries and help promote seasonal movements of yaks.