Chhimi Dema  

Yaks have been at the heart of the highlanders’ livelihood. As documented in many reports, highlanders said yak-rearing is on the decline today with a shortage of forage, predation, and no successor to take up yak-farming.

The Department of Livestock (DoL) to ensure livelihood opportunities for the yak-herding families and keep alive the tradition of yak-rearing signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a UK-based company earlier this month.

The House of Tengri Limited is a London-based design house, specialising in rare fabrics, clothing and home interiors with fibre sourced from remote parts of the world.

According to a press release from DoL, the MoU was signed to provide economic stability and opportunities for yak herders, yak cooperatives and federations through international markets.

This initiative will greatly benefit the yak-herding communities to strengthen their livelihood, said Nob Tshering, 63, from Choekhor gewog, also the chairperson of the Bumthang Yak Federation.

Currently, the wool is left on the animal without collection and hardly anyone makes profits from it, Nob Tshering said.

The herders make ropes, bags, and blankets from wool today for their use.

Nob Tshering said that people abandon yak-rearing in search of opportunities in towns.

According to the Livestock Statistics 2021, there are 38,642 yaks in the country and 11,161 zo-zoms.  Zo-zoms are cross-breed male and female progeny of yak bull and cattle.

DoL’s Chief Livestock Officer, Towchu Rabgay, said that the collaboration with Tengri will establish long-term market access for Bhutan’s yak wool, build the capacity of locals in developing high-quality wool, and create wool products for export.

He said that Tengri would provide technical support to develop a business model to market Bhutanese wool products in international markets.