Gilgit - Baltistan

Yak Yak project aims to generate income

Your browser may not support display of this image.Yak down is set to revitalise the economy of one of the world’s most remote regions, thanks to efforts from a Cambridge University engineering graduate.

The ‘Yak Yak’ Project has been set up by NGO Operation Mercy, with the help of Sarah Ong, who recently completed a degree in manufacturing engineering. The project is intended to generate income from fine yak hair for the inhabitants of the Pamir mountain range in Tajikistan.  
Little industry exists in the area, which covers almost half of Tajikistan, but the mountain range is home to a sizeable yak population. Although the animals have been herded there for centuries, their down has generally been discarded.  
Its potential as a source of income was first identified by Operation Mercy Tajikistan and Sarah worked throughout the spring with their team to decide how best to put it to use.  
The end product is yet to be finalised, but progress has been made on trialling hand tufting of the down, collecting spun samples, and knitting prototype hats and scarves. The fineness of the down lends itself to knitwear and Yak Yak is planning to target high street consumers.  
“We decided on producing finished goods to maximise the employment potential for the locals,” she said. “The biggest problem is to separate the down from the hair – along with improving quality, we also need to establish reliable production if we want to export garments overseas.”  
Sarah now plans to return for another two years, to follow up on her initial work by testing the reliability and quality of production and beginning the search for partner organisations.  
She said: “I didn’t want to work at a regular factory in the UK and central Asia gave me the chance to use my skills where they will make a big difference. It was wonderful to be able to apply university knowledge in somewhere so completely different.  
“My stay there has changed my perspective on life. From these people, I have learnt the difference between a luxury and necessity. Earlier I would think that taking a shower is a necessity, now I think it’s a luxury.  
“I also believe that the West can learn a lot from them because eventually we are all going to face a resource crunch. They know how to live with fewer resources, and not out of choice but because they are forced to.”  
Funding for Sarah’s initial project was provided by a bursary from Engineers Without Borders UK, an NGO dedicated to funding projects that help human development through engineering, and the Royal Academy of Engineering. The early stages and ongoing work have been funded by other sources.

Source: Moutain Forum

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  1. The Yak Yak project seems to be an interesting, useful, innovative income generating project, most relevant for communities settled in the mountainous areas with abundant high summer and lower spring pastures; so essential for herding yak populations.

    Once pilot-tested and mainstreamed in Tajikstan, the model could be adopted/ adapted for the benefit of similar communities living in the laps of the great mountain ranges of Hindukush, Karakorum and Pamirs. The concerned AKDN institutions may sponsor such projects, more specifically in the Northern Areas and Chitral or elsewhere they currently work.

    The Yak Yak project seems to hold promise of success and potential benefits to communities, also increasing the yak population, which probably is on the shrink now.

    Good work, thanks PT editors

    My apologies for wrong posting

  2. I would very much like to get regular feed back on the progress of Yak Yak pilot project. As Mutabiat Shah sahib has very rightly mentiond that its dessimenation has great potential up in the Karakarum, Himalaya and Hindukush. But external funding/ partnership for such kind of project is most desireable to compliment family incomes of many vulnarable households in the mountains.


  3. The YAK YAK- Project sounds very strange and very attracive and innovative idea for the indegenious people living in mountaneous regions of the glob. Very few people are at experties level in upper part of Hunza, Gojal and few of the very common potential areas are SHUMSHAL, KHUNJARAV, BATURA.
    My suggestion here goes to SNT and KVO members to study the proto type project of SARA and if workable and feasible to implement in narrated areas to economically empower the women of the areas.
    My humble request to the team of PT, for the immediate contacts of SARA—–

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