Tradition: Yaks are once again wandering the green meadows of Tang in Bumthang after National Centre for Animal Nutrition (NCAN) successfully reinstated the ancient tradition of rearing the yaks, a practice that had completely perished once.
The yaks were brought to Tang in December 2014 as part of NCAN’s yak rearing culture revival project. The Nu 8 million project is being executed jointly with the community of Naruth to revive semi-nomadic livelihood.
“Around 50 yaks are now in the mountains, which were earlier an established traditional pastureland,” an official from NCAN rangeland unit, Pema Wangda said, adding that 20-30 more yaks would be added in coming months.
Yaks were bought from Bji and Katsho in Haa, Dagala in Thimphu, Sephu in Wangdue, and Chokhortoe for Nu 2 million.
Another official from NCAN rangeland unit, Wangchuk, said the yak rearing revival project surrounding, which even officials were earlier skeptical about is now well on track. Two villagers under employment of NCAN are looking after the herd.
“The yaks are now in Namgong, which is officially two days walk from the nearest village Naruth,” Wangchuk said.
The yaks were kept in Dungmithang for about a month in December, which is around 10 kilometres from Chamkhar town. The herd was then was taken to ancient pastureland in Tebithang from where it was taken to another traditional pasture at Phokpai in May.
The herd is expected to return to Dungmithang from Phokpai in December to document whether yaks can thrive in Dungmithang where it was never kept before.
“Yaks are being tried at the lowest altitude in Dungmithang to resolve the winter fodder shortage since the place has aplenty of lean season fodder,” Pema Wangda said.
The dairy production is, however, expected only by next year.
“This year no production is expected since most are heifer,” Wangchuk said, adding that heifers were bought deliberately to enable them to acclimatise to new environment.
The project was envisaged in 2011 by Dr. Pema Gyamtsho, former minister for agriculture after Tang completely lost its touch with the semi-nomadic lifestyle with onset of modernisation and agriculture.
With introduction of potato cultivation and replacement of yaks with superior cattle breed such as brown Swiss and jersey, yaks disappeared from the villages.
By 2014, Tang had no yak left as the last village Tahung sold its stock to herders from neighbouring villages in Chokhortoe and Dhur. By then villagers of Naru, Chothtoe, Tazur, Jemshong and Nahru, Tandigang in Tang, whose livelihood hinged on yak rearing, had long sold out their stock of the animal.
The communities produced butter, fermented cheese and meat. Clothes were woven from yak and wool, which also has now disappeared altogether.
Herders from Tang used to walk for over five days en-route Rudhungla Pass to barter their dairy products and meat with cereals and vegetables with people of Kurtoe in Lhuentse.
The semi-nomadic lifestyle, however, is expected to come back with revival project. Currently, by-laws are being framed for the yak rearing group.
“Once everything is settled, NCAN will handover the project to the community,” Pema Wangda said.
Tempa Wangdi, Bumthang