Gearing towards reviving aged old tradition – Yak Farming in Tang

Narut community members engaged in rangeland fencing

Yak farming is one of the main farming activities of the highland communities in northern Dzongkhags for decades. In the similar way, the community of Narut under Tang Geog in Bumthang Dzongkhag had been rearing the yaks in the past. The yak herders in those days used the natural pasture (Tsamdro) at Namgong and Phokpai for grazing their yaks.

However, yaks rearing have been abandoned by the same community in decade ago since they have shifted from yak herding to dairy farming. The natural pastures within the rangeland areas in Namgong were left fallow due to discontinuation of yak herding and that trends have attributed towards dwindling of yak population in the northern Dzongkhags such as in case of Bumthang Dzongkhag.

Rangeland area at Dordhey

So in order to revive yak farming and reinstate aged old tradition, restoration and reviving of degraded rangelands through sustainable rangeland management practice have being implemented starting from May, 2014 in Tang Geog by National Centre for Animal Nutrition (NCAN), Bumthang, Department of Livestock under the project title “Securing Rangeland Soil Carbon through Community Yak Herding within Thrimshingla National Park” with the fund support from Bhutan Trust Fund  for Environment and Conservation(BTFEC).

Field assessment including herd migration practise in the past was carried out. The activities to revive degraded rangelands at Namgong and Tevethang were finalized in the 1st week of April, 2014 involving all key stakeholders (Narut community, Tang Geog Administration and NCAN).

Project duration to revive degraded rangelands for establishment of Community Yak Farm is 3 years (2014-2016). Fifty acres of degraded rangelands in Tang Geog (Dordhey 10 acres, Namgong 5 acres and Tevethang 35 acres) were brought under sustainable rangeland management practise in the first half year (till June, 2014). The community of Narut who was the immediate beneficiary has executed the field works such as rangelands fencing & clearing unwanted shrubs under the supervision of technical staff from Rangeland unit, NCAN. Fencing work for 100 acres of degraded rangelands will be completed by end of December 2014 as part of reviving degraded rangeland (Tsamdro) to set up grazing area for community yak farm.

Rangeland area at Tevethang

To kick-start the Community Yak Farm, 50 yaks will be procured within June, 2015 and stationed at various grazing locations that have been identified and revived. The community yak herd will follow the same migration pattern as practice by the Narut yak herders in the past. The grazing areas include, Dungmethang, Namgong, Phokpai and Tevethang at Tang geog.

Eight households from Narut community was benefited financially as they could earn additional cash income through implementation of field work such as fencing rangelands (Tsamdro) including transportation of fencing materials. After the establishment of community yak farm, community members will be expected to benefit in number of ways. Firstly, they will able to produce yak cheese, chugo and butter for marketing. Secondly it will provide employment opportunity for the community members. There is also scope for the community yaks to engage in promoting eco-tourism within the Narut-Namgong trekking routes.

As of June 2014, Nu 2.283 million was approved and spent to revive the degraded rangelands at Namgong and Tevethang which is the main requirement for reinstating yak farming in Tang geog.

Therefore, with the implementation of such important program, it will contribute towards revitalizing aged old tradition and at same time bring economic and environmental benefit to Narut community in the long run.

-By Pema Wangdrak and Wangchuk , NCAN, Bumthang

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