Theme 6: Pastoralism--Oral Sessions

Description

In the Himalayan regions of Nepal, people herd yaks (Bos grunniens) under transhumant pastoralism, seasonal migrations of herds between summer highlands and winter lowlands. For several decades, the number of yaks has decreased, and the management strategy of yak herding has been altered due to the influence of substantial changes in both the social environment and their livelihoods. We conducted field surveys on yak herding in the south of Mustang District from 2012 to 2016 to examine the recent shift in management strategy and practice. The surveys were focused on fifteen yak owners and their herdsmen who lived in southernmost three villages in the district and organized a yak owners’ cooperative group. The herd scale has been constant in recent years, although the owners had a willingness to increase the scale. The herding practices were traditional and extensive, which might not have led to an increase in herd size or productivity. Dairy production has shown an obvious declining trend, whereas sales of meat and the revenue from the yak blood drinking festival hosted by the cooperative group have become more important income sources for local yak herding in association with the development of local infrastructures and livelihoods. Because the economic incentives for yak herding remained strong in the study area, the herding scale will be maintained, or expanded if the management practices are improved in the future.

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Shift in Management Strategy of Yak Herding in the South of Mustang District, Nepal, Himalaya

In the Himalayan regions of Nepal, people herd yaks (Bos grunniens) under transhumant pastoralism, seasonal migrations of herds between summer highlands and winter lowlands. For several decades, the number of yaks has decreased, and the management strategy of yak herding has been altered due to the influence of substantial changes in both the social environment and their livelihoods. We conducted field surveys on yak herding in the south of Mustang District from 2012 to 2016 to examine the recent shift in management strategy and practice. The surveys were focused on fifteen yak owners and their herdsmen who lived in southernmost three villages in the district and organized a yak owners’ cooperative group. The herd scale has been constant in recent years, although the owners had a willingness to increase the scale. The herding practices were traditional and extensive, which might not have led to an increase in herd size or productivity. Dairy production has shown an obvious declining trend, whereas sales of meat and the revenue from the yak blood drinking festival hosted by the cooperative group have become more important income sources for local yak herding in association with the development of local infrastructures and livelihoods. Because the economic incentives for yak herding remained strong in the study area, the herding scale will be maintained, or expanded if the management practices are improved in the future.