Back to news

Festival Provides Platform to Discuss Future of Yak Herding in the Kangchenjunga Landscape

The domestic yak – long a cornerstone of mountain cultures and economies across the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) – is facing an uncertain future.

With the closing of international borders in the region in the early 1960s, the seasonal migration of yak herds between highland summer pastures and warmer lowland wintering areas is restricted within country boundaries. With this, breeding is limited within smaller yak populations, reducing germplasm exchange and impacting overall yak health and breed development.

Basant Pant & Tashi Dorji

2 mins Read

70% Complete

Kipchu, a yak herder from Haa, Bhutan, said that traditional products such as hard cheese from yak milk have limited markets. And without technological innovation in the yak product value chain, they have limited returns on other products like yak wool.

Breed deterioration and shortage of winter fodder are affecting the overall health of yak, and with limited market viability of yak products, yak herders are now looking elsewhere to sustain their livelihoods.

Led by a transboundary initiative at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), yak herders, government agencies, and development partners in the Kangchenjunga landscape of Bhutan, India, and Nepal are working together to address these challenges.

A meeting coinciding with Bhutan’s Haa Summer Festival (14–15 July) created a platform for people from different countries to identify major challenges to yak herding, exchange knowledge and technology, and discuss possible solutions. Bhutan’s Prime Minisiter – the chief guest at the festival – and other dignitaries discussed opportunities and challenges of yak rearing in the Kangchenjunga landscape with yak herders.

The policy environment in the landscape is supportive of improvements in the yak sector. In Bhutan, the government has prioritized highland development in its latest five year plan. And in Nepal, public private partnerships have driven innovation in the yak value chain for years, which led to the production of Swiss style cheese from yak milk as well as diversified products such a dog chew toys from yak cheese. But it is clear that regional partnerships and collaboration across borders must be strengthened for yak herders in the HKH to be able to sustain in this profession.

Karma Bhutia, Joint Director from the Sikkim Livestock Department, recommended strengthening regional cooperation and partnerships to address many of the common challenges that herders are facing in the landscape.

Other more grassroots solutions also emerged to help strengthen activities on yak production and management.

Towchu Rabgay, Department of Livestock, Bhutan, suggested a network of yak breeding stations of Bhutan, India, and Nepal to facilitate the exchange of yak germplasm and reproductive biotechnologies. Other ideas included the development of the Kangchenjunga Landscape Yak Herders Association, a regional grassroots network that could provide a regional voice and leadership for organizing annual yak festivals, coordinating the systematic exchange of high quality breeding bulls, and facilitating the exchange of knowledge and experience.

The value of yak festivals was also highlighted during the event. Chandra Dangol, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Forest and Environment, Nepal noted the importance of these festivals in linking herders‘ rich traditions and culture with the growing ecotourism sector.

The Haa Summer Festival is an annual event organized by the local government of Haa with support from the Tourism Council of Bhutan and other stakeholders to celebrate traditional sports, unique Bhutanese cuisine, and the rich traditions of Bhutan’s nomadic herders. More than 500 people attended the festival in 2018.

The yak herders’ meeting was organized by the Kangchenjunga Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative, which is supported by the governments of Austria and Germany.

Stay current

Stay up to date on what’s happening around the HKH with our most recent publications and find out how you can help by subscribing to our mailing list.

RELATED CONTENTS

Continue exploring this topic

13 Dec 2017 News
Commitment to Support Integrated River Basin Management in Nepal

Over the course of the next five years, policy and implementation efforts will be made to support integrated river basin ...

23 Mar 2018 HI-LIFE
Promoting Ecotourism in the Hkakabo Razi Landscape, Myanmar

Titled Ecotourism Plan for Hkakabo Razi Landscape, the event provided stakeholders an opportunity to voice concerns and communicate directly with ...

29 Jul 2015 News
Hands-on training on Flood Early Warning System

A five-day regional hands-on training on community-based flood early warning system (CB-FEWS) was organized in Kathmandu, Nepal, from 8-12 June ...

9 May 2015 News
International efforts to identify post-quake hazards

In response to the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck Nepal on 25 April 2015, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain ...

11 Dec 2017 News
Winners of ICT for Mountain Development Award 2017

While celebrating International Mountain Day on 11 December 2017, ICIMOD announced the four winners of this year’s ICT for Mountain ...

8 Jul 2021 News
MoU signed by Climate Analytics and International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development

On 7 July 2021 the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and Climate Analytics have signed a Memorandum of ...

30 Apr 2020 Cryosphere
New study finds that crevasses in Himalayan glaciers can play a key role in influencing ice temperature

Glaciers in cold and arid climates, such as in High Mountain Asia, can warm up much faster than expected because ...

Understanding of glaciers’ health calls for precise estimations of ice losses into water equivalent

Glaciers in the upper Indus supply more than half of the river water and are experiencing significant melting. There is ...