Yak cooperative in Haa focuses on income diversification

Phub Dem | Haa

Started with 51 members in March last year, Haa Valley Yak Herder Primary Cooperative is all set to open its one-stop yak products shop.

The members met yesterday to discusses issues and way forward.

Haa’s dzongkhag livestock officer, Tshering Dorji, said that the store would target both locals and international tourists to improve the economy of yak herders. “The shop will serve as an authentic one-stop-shop for those interested in yak products.”

The cooperative also proposed other alternatives to diversify the herder’s source of income and to promote tourism in the region. Some of the planned activities include yak riding around Meri Puensum and yak recreational spot in Chelela.

The highlanders also proposed to use their horses for transportation services for tourists within the dzongkhag to generate income. The people of Haa have been hiring horses from Paro and Thimphu.

The chairperson of the cooperative, Sonam Dorji, said that due to the pandemic, numerous plans were delayed.

Besides, he said that there was a lack of technical support from the officials. “There should be a clear policy on whom the cooperative should work or consult with.”

Beginning next month, three households would run the highland shop for three years. The selected household would contribute a certain percentage from their income to the cooperative.

Livestock production officer of Haa, Kipchu, said that the department was planning to set up a yak federation to start policy dialogue to formalise yak’s network to promoting the transboundary cooperation on yak value chain development.

The cooperative, according to Kipchu, was essential in representing the highland communities at the local, regional, and international level rather than in silos.

Currently, Haa has 58 yak herders in three gewogs of Bji, Kartsho and Eusu with 39, 12 and 7 households, respectively.

The herding household in Haa is reducing by the year.

Tshering Nidup, who has been herding yaks for 15 years, said that he would be the last herder from the family, as his children were not keen on taking up the practice.

He said that due to the lack of necessary facilities such as mobile network connection and proper route, young people did not want to involve in yak herding practices.

According to Tshering Nidup, the government should make plans and projects in helping the primary yak herders.

While it is essential to have a yak product supply chain, he said that preserving the reducing herding community should be a priority for now.

There used to be about 50 households from his village involved in rearing yaks. But today, only two families are raising yaks.

He said: “The priority should be in retaining the highlanders and encouraging young people to take up the dying practice.”

Kesang Dawa, who remembers herding yak as a child, said, the future of yak herding was bleak. “When I retire, I think I have to sell the yaks as there is no one to look after the animal.”

He said that hiring people was expensive and most people did not know how to handle and milk yaks. “We have to pay Nu 500 per day and provide them with food and clothes.”

Jewchu, a veteran yak herder, is hopeful that the cooperative would help the yak herders in channeling their issues to the relevant stakeholders.

He said that there were gaps in policies and implementations.

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