No need to migrate for work
Phurpa Tamang in Himal Khabarpatrika, 30 December
Phurpa Dindup Tamang, 50, of Thulo Bharkhu of Rasuwa district is a yak-herder by profession. His grandfather Singi Jhankri had a big sheep farm, and his father Dawa Jhankri raised yaks. His other grandfather Tenzin Tamang was known as Tenzin Baru and was wealthy because of his large herd of yaks.
Phurpa Dindup also grew up raising yaks, but when he felt it did not pay him enough, he went to Kuwait in 2003 to work for eight years as a security guard. He returned to Nepal and decided to get back into his ancestral profession in his home village, and use the exposure he had got abroad.
"Other places are not like your own village and country," he says, “it may not be easy to earn money in Nepal, but it is an easier life.” The government dairy buys yak milk for Rs80 per litre, and Dindup says he can make a comfortable enough living with that.
Raising yaks maybe difficult for others, but he finds it easy since he learnt it as a child. He does acknowledge that it may be really risky for those who don't know anything about it. Yaks have to be moved according to the seasons. If they are not moved to highland pastures in summer, they dies from the heat.
Yak herders need to know which forests have enough water and grass in which months, and which rivers and wetlands are infested with leech. They need to stay away from poisonous plants, and treacherous cliffs and landslides. Yak herders also need to know how to save their animals from snow leopards and wolves, and what medicinal herbs to give them when they fall sick.
In olden days, people who raised yaks and sheep were called 'Baru' (rich) because they earned income from selling milk, butter, cheese, churpi, wool, and calves. These days there are fewer yak farms in villages, but the products still fetch good prices.
"Mountain communities like ours need butter for rituals like birth, death, weddings, so the value of milk has increased because there are fewer yak farms," Dindup adds.
Dindup, who now has 32 yaks, never got the opportunity to study, and says one reason he returned to his family yak farm is that he does not have the skills or the capital to start any other business. He received Rs500,000 from the Agriculture Ministry to raise yaks, and now earns Rs 700,000 a year.
He is educating his children from his earnings: his eldest daughter passed Grade 10 and got married, his second daughter is in Grade 12, and eldest son passed Grade 10. His wife bought gold earrings last year from those earnings.
Says Dindup: "It is good to be back. I can be with my family, and travel to the mountains, in winter I go down to Kerung. In summer I go up to Lauribina Pass. Life could not be better.