Livestock: With the highlands now losing more yak herders each year to various natural and man-made factors, herders of Merak in Trashigang have sought targeted intervention from the Department of Livestock to address the issue.

On November 1, the director general of the Department of Livestock along with officials from the Regional Livestock Development Centre met with herders of Merak to discuss issues faced by the community.

Herders said that more herders are giving up yak herding due to extreme hardships and difficult living conditions.

They said that the living conditions, especially of nagzips, are poor and extremely demanding. In order to alleviate their hardships and difficult living conditions, herders requested several interventions and support from the department.

Herders said that some high altitude summer camps face severe drinking water shortage both during summer and winter. They suggested exploring appropriate water harvesting technology such as building of storage tanks to collect rainwater during summer which could be used in winter.

Another request from the community was for supply of portable solar home lighting systems and Corrugated Galvanised Iron (CGI) sheets for summer camps as a way to improve living conditions of the nagzips. Herders said that besides reducing demand for timber for roofing materials, CGI sheets would have a positive impact on the long-term sustainability of natural resources in the area.

The sheep rearing practise in Merak has also declined, affecting both wool and traditional highlander costume production.

Herders requested for 1,500 fine-wool breed sheep to be distributed among poorest as a way of reviving the sheep rearing practise, wool production and for enhancing income generation.

According to a press release from the department, wool is the basic material for weaving traditional highlander clothes and any intervention to boost wool production would have a positive impact on promotion and maintenance of weaving culture among the herders. Similarly, supply of wool processing equipment would further entrench traditional weaving culture and practice among herders and their children.

To facilitate marketing of butter and fermented cheese, the members of the Jomo Lhanor Tshogpa requested replacing old cool boxes, which have outlived their useful lifespan.  The other request was for supply of spare parts for cream separator and butter churners on priority basis. Herders also requested for glass jars for packing fermented cheese for better presentation and marketing.

The director general said that since Merak is a livestock priority area, interventions to maintain continuity and sustainability of yak herding and the unique culture and tradition of the highlander for posterity must receive priority.

High altitude area development would receive priority and budget allocation in the 12th Plan.  The director general added that most of the requests made by herders were very much within the mandate of the department and therefore the department would try its best to deliver the goods and services as requested on a priority basis.

Younten Tshedup