Two months after a scheme was worked out to insure them against the impact of climate change, the Himalayan yaks have now become bankable.
The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has approved a credit plan for the high-altitude animal often referred to as “mountain cattle”. The scheme was developed by the National Research Centre on Yak (NRCY) at Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh’s West Kameng district.
The NRCY comes under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.
“The banking plan vetted by NABARD was found to be feasible for credit support by the lead banks and has been included in the potential-linked credit plans for Tawang, West Kameng and Shi-Yomi districts of Arunachal Pradesh,” NRCY Director Mihir Sarkar said.
The banking scheme is expected to be a shot in the arm for yak husbandry and boost the economic dividends of yak herders above 8,000 ft in the Eastern Himalayas.
The yak is one of the most prized animals of the Himalayan region and highlanders due to its multifarious roles in strengthening nutritional security through milk and meat, providing shelter and clothing through its fibres, besides acting as a ‘beast of burden’ for carrying loads on steep mountain tracks.
“But the past few decades have witnessed an unprecedented decline in the yak population of the country. Although many factors like inbreeding, cross-hybridisation and unscientific farming practices have precipitated the worsening trend, the 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,” Dr. Sarkar said.
The hardship in yak-rearing pertains mainly to the traditional transhumance rearing, which involves the migration of the herder along with the yaks from lower to higher reaches during summers and the descent journey towards the start of winters. The immense physiological and psychological hardships entailed vis-a-vis lower remuneration in the traditional system of transhumance have dissuaded younger people away from yak rearing.
“The bankable scheme is expected to help curb the declining trend of yak population on one hand and in facilitating profitable yak farming through the promotion of entrepreneurship on the other,” Dr. Sarkar said.
According to a 2017 report, the number of yaks across the country declined by almost 24.7% between 2012 and 2019. The total yak population in India is about 58,000.
The Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir have some 26,000, followed by 24,000 in Arunachal Pradesh, 5,000 in Sikkim, 2,000 in Himachal Pradesh and about 1,000 in West Bengal and Uttarakhand.