Himalayan Yak Herders: The Case of Dolpo Kchung-jhee
The relevance of Kshung-jhee (Yak Herders) in Dolpo, the agro-pastoral remote Himalayan indigenous community has always remained significant. Bordering north and now within the present political geographic boundary of Nepal, the Dolpo community has faced several historical and contemporary challenges to maintain their year old tradition of Kchung-jhee. Yaks as social and economic capital has eased Dolpo to link their experiences with ecology and their neighbors including Rong (lower hills of Dolpa), Thakalis of Mustang, and Neyshyang of Manang. Variations of integrated everyday lives with yaks within the heterogeneous Dolpo community pose additional challenge to understand the phenomena in totality.
Undoubtedly, these integrated livelihoods of Dolpo and Yaks are also changing. Especially thwarted by the cultural revolution of China, the restriction of community’s Kchung-jhee and yaks in their mobility to and from Tibet’s pasturelands and their own dhrong (pasturelands) affected their lives. Their relationship with Yaks and dhrong also offers interesting avenues in terms of how indigenous communities maintain such bond especially in the present context of migration, climate change, and no political participation of Dolpo in any major government offices including District Agriculture Office, Dolpa. Nonetheless, there are not any scholars who have explored this relationship of human, nature and animal, in this case, Kchung-jhee relation with yaks and dhrong. Under such context, how do they continue to rear and maintain the bond? What are the ongoing challenges and opportunities that these Kchung-jee face? Revolving around these particular research questions, the research piece will try to understand and critically analyze how the community, such as Bharbhong and Shyang of Dolpo and their Kchung-jee continue to sustain their relationship with Yaks and nature. Based on the in-depth interviews conducted in the month of December 2016 and January 2017 both in Boudha (Kathmandu), and Bharong and Shyang (present Tsarka Tangshyong Village Body) via the life histories of Kchung-jee, the piece will show how Kchung-jee’s migration to Rong (the lower hills of Dolpa) and various pasturelands within Dolpo, and their annual trade with the Thakalis of Mustang are still helping the interrelationship of Kchung-jee, yaks and nature including pasturelands to renew.