Transhumant pastoralism in yak production in the lower Mustang district of Nepal (2007)

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There are thirty yak herd owners, all men and mainly Thakalis, between Jomsom and Lete in Lower Mustang. Transhumance is used in herding yaks, which migrate seasonally between winter pastures at about 3,000–4,000 metres and summer pastures at about 4,000–5,000 metres above sea level. Absentee herd ownership, in which shepherds (usually members of a non-Thakali ethnic group) herd only yaks and do not own any animals themselves, is common. Yaks are raised primarily for meat and milk, though substantial income is realized from selling blood during two blood-drinking ceremonies and from selling yaks as pack animals. Milk is used for products such as butter/ghee and a dry, hard curd cheese (chhurpi), which are mainly sold but also used for home consumption and for making ‘salty butter tea’.

Yak wool has little commercial value today but is used to make rope and tents. Yak owner estimations of how much of their income is derived from their herds range widely between 10 percent and 90 percent, but average about 50 percent. Additional income is made from the sale of seasonal crops, in particular apples, potatoes, maize, millet and barley that are produced on the owners’ land. Owners also raise chickens, cows, buffalo, oxen, horses and goats. Two of the herd owners owned hotels that were run by their families. In this study, annual earnings from yaks totalled approximately Nepalese Rupees (N.Rs) 72,780 and total income for the herd owner was about N.Rs 145,560 (U.S. $2,079).

The authors concluded that for these herd owners, yak raising is not a subsistence economic activity but rather part of a market economy based on speculative investments and accumulation. Moreover, yak production is a very high-risk enterprise as disasters can decimate large proportions of a herd quickly.
Year: 2007
Language: English
In: Nomad People Volume 11, Issue 2, 2007: 57?85,

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 Record created 2011-12-21, last modified 2013-01-17