2023
  • Non-ICIMOD publication

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Economics of yak herding in the Kanchenjunga landscape of the Eastern Himalayas

  • Rajesh K. Rai
  • Srijana Joshi
  • Tashi Dorji
  • Basant Pant
  • Summary

Yak herding is one of the oldest market-based traditions, which is part of an integrated social-ecological system. But, it is at risk of extinction as yak herders are gradually shifting towards alternative occupations. The discontinuation of herding may have several implications such as loss of culture and degradation of the rangeland ecosystem. Though yak herding is not limited to the fnancial aspect of herding, this is considered a main cause of the discontinuation. Therefore, it is important to understand the economics of yak herding. A beneft–cost analysis of yak herding was carried out based on the interviews with 60 yak herders in the Kanchenjunga landscape, Nepal. The results indicate that yak herding is not fnancially attractive. High mortality of calves and adults is threatening this occupation, and degrading rangelands are increasing the costs. Yak herding generates substantial amount of social and ecological benefts in terms of preserving culture, maintaining rangeland ecosystems and curbing illegal activities. If these benefts are included, then the beneft–cost ratio and internal rate of return would be 1.32 and 10.44 respectively. Since yak herding generates low direct profts and requires herders to stay in remote areas, there is a high risk of discontinuation of this profession by successive generations of youth. This study suggests to improve rangeland management through prescribed burning and provisioning of health services, particularly in summer pastures and incentivize yak herders for generating positive externalities