Pakistani Team Travels to China to Explore Possibilities for Strengthening Yak Value Chains in Pakistan

Yak value chains, product and service value addition mechanisms and the government’s role in supporting these activities were some of the topics covered during the eight-day study tour.
Photo credit: Alex Treadway

The scope, size and scale of the production and marketing of yak products in Pakistan’s Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan districts is much smaller than it is in neighbouring China. Yaks, however, are an integral part of the lives of communities living in these high altitude districts, and in recent years local and regional agencies have been working to support and strengthen yak keeping in Pakistan and turn it into a viable income generating activity.

A team of yak value chain actors from Pakistan travelled to Lanzhou is Gansu province, China, in April 2017 to learn about the advancements in integrated yak farming practices that have been made in China. The exposure visit, which lasted from April 8 to April 15, was organized by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) under its Support to Rural Livelihoods and Climate Change Adaptation in the Himalaya (Himalica) programme and Pakistan’s Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP). The value chain actors came from Chitral and Gilgit Baltistan, and were guided by Ruijun Long, senior ecologist at ICIMOD, who led the team on behalf of ICIMOD and Lanzhou University. The group consisted of 11 people representing yak farmers' groups, the private sector (processors), the AKRSP, and relevant government departments from Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral. 

The topics covered included integrated yak farming practices related to health, breed, fodder and pasture management, modern processing, and the sale and marketing of yak meat and other products in Lanzhou. The participants learnt about yak value chains, product and service value addition mechanisms–processing technologies, quality standards, business models, packing, packaging, and branding—and about the government’s role in supporting and promoting these. 

Briefing on e-marketing and business incubation
Photo credit: Ghulam Ali/ICIMOD

Over the course of the five days they were in China, the participants visited several yak pastures and fodder production factories. They toured farm machinery plants, potato industries and research and development institutions to look at the latest developments in place. They also explored markets,  processing industries that produce halal food, yak meat processing centres that run on the latest technologies, marketing institutions, and yak farming communities. They traveled to various parts of Gansu province, including Lanzhou city, Dingxi County and Linxia Hui, a Muslim autonomous prefecture, as well as Tianzhu Tibetan counties. The team had the opportunity to observe, analyze, question, and relate to the local context. 

The participants found the exposure visit useful, relevant and interesting, even though yak meat production is a much bigger enterprise in China than it is in Chitral or Gilgit Baltistan. The participants said they are committed to integrating good practices into their local contexts. Farmers’ representatives are now looking at ways to improve fodder production and pasture management back home. They have learnt about the advantages of organizing communities, strengthening supplies to the market, and improving government relations to strengthen their farms and businesses. Members of the private sector, specifically processors, are committed to learning about the business and running it with a state-of-the-art benchmark set in place. The government and relevant department representatives for their part are committed to strengthening extension services, fodder production, and providing an enabling policy environment. 

Finished yak products on display for sale
Photo credit: Ghulam Ali/ICIMOD

As a result of the exposure visit, the AKRSP signed a strategic memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Gansu Light Industries' Science Research Institute to strengthen and leverage the  sea buckthorn industry in Pakistan. 

The AKRSP is further committed to encouraging government-to-government and private sector partnerships among the Gilgit-Baltistan government, the Gansu Provincial Government, and Lanzhou University. These partnerships will focus on improving the yak and sea buckthorn value chains, on building vocational and entrepreneurial skills, and on encouraging the youth to engage in business partnerships and livelihood promotion in Gilgit-Baltistan.  Lanzhou University has also made a commitment to send a multidisciplinary team along with a RMB 1 million (USD 145,000) grant to carry out a scoping study together with ICIMOD’s Hindu Kush Pamir Landscape (HKPL) initiative and the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) in the HKPL area within the next two years.