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Hit by climate change, other factors, Yak farming gets a lifeline

Hit by climate change and other adverse factors, including dwindling habitats, Yak farming has got a boost in the Himalayan region with support from ICAR and NABARD.

Yak farming

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  14 Dec 2021 5:48 AM GMT

Arunachal Pradesh has the largest population of around 24,000 Yaks, mostly in Tawang and West Kameng districts

ITANAGAR: Hit by climate change and other adverse factors, including dwindling habitats, Yak farming has got a boost in the Himalayan region with support from ICAR and NABARD.

The domesticated cattle Yak is found throughout the Himalayan region – Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, northern West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir in India – while wild Yak is found in Tibet.

Amidst the challenge of climate change, fodder crisis, unfriendly habitat, livelihood predicament, the Yak farmers in the high mountains of Arunachal Pradesh now have a reason to smile, thanks to a novel initiative of the ICAR-National Research Centre on Yak and a positive response from the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). Responding positively to the proposal of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), banks have come forward, showing their willingness to provide loans to Yak farmers as well as others keen to earn a livelihood through the farming of this bovine species.

The ICAR-National Research Centre on Yak, in Arunachal Pradesh, Director Mihir Sarkar said that the credit proposal and related plans approved by the NABARD were found to be feasible for credit support by the banks and have been included in the Potential Linked Credit Plans. He was confident the support would promote Yak husbandry and yield economic dividends for Yak herders. Sarkar said that Yak farmers can avail the loan for Yak farming, their housing, animals' feed, treatment and procurement.

Under the new scheme, a Yak farmer is entitled to get a loan up to Rs 5.65 lakh with a very low interest rate and a period of moratorium as well as subsidy. The ICAR scientist said that they would soon call a meeting of bank officials, Yak farmers and all other stakeholders to discuss the nitty-gritty of the scheme before its execution. "Steps would be taken to put in place this scheme in Ladakh where a regional centre on Yak research had been approved by the government," Sarkar said. The ICAR-National Research Centre on Yak played a key role in ensuring an insurance scheme for the jumbo animal with the National Insurance Company Ltd which recently decided to insure the highly-valuable Himalayan cattle. Quoting the latest data, Sarkar said that India has around 58,000 Yaks, found on the heights of the Himalayan belt.

Arunachal Pradesh has the largest population of around 24,000 Yaks, mostly in Tawang and West Kameng districts followed by around 26,000 in Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir, 5,000 in Sikkim, 2,000 in Himachal Pradesh and around 1,000 in northern West Bengal and Uttarakhand.

Sarkar said that the animal being vulnerable to harsh and inclement weather conditions because of climate change, diseases, attack by wild animals, are some of the prominent reasons for the huge losses incurred by Yak farmers. Yak is a lifeline for pastoral nomads in the higher reaches of the Himalayas where other bovines would not survive or at least not without difficulty. Yaks play a multidimensional socio-cultural economic role for the pastoral nomadic communities who rear Yaks for earning their livelihood. However, lately, the economic dividends arising from Yak farming are declining and this is further reflected in the dwindling Yak population on a year-by-year basis. Sarkar said that although factors such as transhipment of Yak farmers during the summer and winter season, inbreeding, cross-hybridization and unscientific farming practices precipitated the worsening trend, disillusionment of the younger generation due to the hardships of Yak rearing stands out as one of the prime reasons for mass desertions from the occupation and the consequent declining population of the animal.

Yak-rearing also becomes more difficult as families are settling down in other farming, as traders and daily wage labourers, and as part of the formal monetised economy. Animal expert Apurba Kumar Dey said that in the recent years the summer has extended and the temperature has risen.

"Yaks usually live in temperatures below 10-15 degree celsius and can't tolerate rising temperatures. Familiar to very cold temperatures, the Yak is able to survive up to minus 40 degree celsius but finds it difficult when the mercury crosses 13 degree celsius," Dey said.

The wild 'pure breed' Yak population, estimated at no more than 10,000 to 15,000, is now in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, where border control is strict and free-crossing of Yaks and their herders from the outside has been restricted. (IANS)

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