Hindu Kush Himalayan yak network: Building partnerships for the conservation and development of yak in the Third Pole

Parallel session at the seventh International Conference on Sustainable Animal Agriculture for Developing Countries (SAADC)-8-11 November 2019

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Background 

In the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), yak play a critical role in ecosystem management, food and energy security, and livelihood enhancement of highlanders. They are also integral to the culture, tradition, and social life of high-mountain communities. The movement of herders across the highlands of countries in the HKH is an age-old practice important for the socioeconomic prosperity of the herding communities.

Given how yak are intrinsic to life in the HKH, the drastically declining yak population is alarming. This can be attributed to unplanned development practices, the closure of international borders (which disrupts migratory corridors and restricts germplasm exchange leading to breed deterioration), controlled grazing, and increasing disinterest among the youth in the yak-herding system. The yak population is also directly and indirectly impacted by increasing temperatures in high-altitude regions, which affect pasturelands, fodder availability, and yak health, and reproduction. 

As a result, yak productivity and populations are declining, and local cultures of yak herding are vanishing. This has heightened the social vulnerability of yak-dependent communities, especially women and children. The need to collectively intervene is evident. As such, the establishment of an HKH yak network as a regional network is under discussion.

HKH yak network

The need for an HKH yak network has been emphasized at several local and international forums, and ICIMOD’s regional programme on Transboundary Landscapes provides an ideal platform to establish an HKH yak network. Such a network is expected to provide a regional voice to the challenges and opportunities in yak conservation and development in the HKH at national and international forums. Some potential activities for the network are organizing regional yak festivals, systematic exchange of good quality breeding bulls, and exchange of knowledge and experience on yak value chains and relevant technologies across the HKH. 

This will help conserve the yak-rearing tradition in the HKH, contribute to the conservation of ecosystems, and allow mountain communities adapt to and thrive in changing environments.

Parallel session

Given this backdrop, ICIMOD is organizing a parallel session during the 2019 International Conference on SAADC to discuss the challenges and opportunities in yak conservation and development. Key decision makers, yak experts, private sector actors, civil society organizations, and representatives of yak-herding communities will deliberate on the way forward for establishing a regional HKH yak network.

Yak value chain exhibition

The platform will also be used for display of various yak value chain products (food, health, fibre, and handicrafts) from the HKH yak-rearing countries. Private sector actors engaged in different yak value chains will be invited to showcase their products. A dedicated space will be provided at the conference venue for the promotion of yak products. 

About the session organizers

ICIMOD, in collaboration with SAADC 2019, is organizing this parallel session. Within ICIMOD, the regional programmes on Transboundary Landscapes and Adaptation and Resilience Building will support participants from their respective intervention sites. Likewise, the Centre’s Ecosystem Services Thematic Area will coordinate technical content. 


Objectives

  • Discuss the challenges and opportunities in sustainable yak development in the HKH

  • Share experience on innovations, technologies, and cooperation in yak rearing in the region 

  • Discuss the way forward for establishing an HKH yak network and review its potential

Any relevant documents/links/images/resources: https://saadc2019.org/