Phob­jilkha sheep con­ser­va­tion and sus­tain­able uti­liza­tion is chal­leng­ing

Bhutan Times - - Front Page - Lhakpa Tsh­er­ing/Wang­duepho­drang

S heep Con­ser­va­tion and Sus­tain­able Uti­liza­tion (Sam­drup Phuentsho Lhug So­chong Tshogpa) in Phob­jikha com­mu­nity was ini­ti­ated to pre­serve and sus­tain the dis­ap­pear­ing sheep rear­ing cul­ture.

The peo­ple of Phob­jikha rear sheep mainly to pro­duce wool for weav­ing lo­cal prod­ucts like gho, kira, blan­ket, bed­sheets and charkap (rain­coat) for their own use.

The na­tive Bhutanese sheep pop­u­la­tion is clas­si­fied into two dis­tinct breeds, Jakar-Sak­teng sheep and Sepsu sheep. Rear­ing Jakar-Sak­teng sheep was once a com­mon prac­tice in most vil­lages in Bumthang, Trongsa, Thim­phu and Wang­due.

How­ever, with mod­ern­iza­tion, sheep rear­ing is no longer a com­mon prac­tice in the com­mu­nity. The util­ity and pop­u­la­tion of sheep are de­clin­ing.

The High Al­ti­tude Northern Ar­eas (HANAs) pro­ject un­der Bio­di­ver­sity Con­ser­va­tion and Sus­tain­able use in HANAs of Bhutan was ef­fec­tive from Jan­uary 2015 to 2017 and is han­dled by NBC for sup­port of high­land com­mu­ni­ties at Phob­jikha, Ch­hu­mig, Dhur and Na­tional Sheep Breed­ing farm, par­tic­u­larly to re­vive Jakar sheep to an op­ti­mum pop­u­la­tion size.

The rear­ing of sheep, how­ever, is not with­out chal­lenges in the com­mu­nity. Some of the chal­lenges in­clude in­creased wildlife pre­da­tions and dog at­tacks on sheep.

Phob­jikha is a beau­ti­ful val­ley with­out di­rect road con­nec­tiv­ity to any other ar­eas. The for­mer Gup of Phobji Ge­wog, Jamt­sho, said most of the peo­ple bring their an­i­mals to

Phob­jikha for tshethar to save their lives, adding that an­i­mals like dogs are pos­ing a risk to the com­mu­nity.

Sheep have been killed and in­jured in the dog at­tack. Ap San­gay, 57, rears 59 sheep. “I have lost 15 sheep and two have been in­jured by a dog at­tack in the past three years,” he said, adding that he felt like cry­ing when he saw the pile of dead an­i­mals.

Many dogs walk near sheep and they can sud­denly turn into hunters the sheep run. No owner of the dogs can be held ac­count­able for this pre­da­tion be­cause the dogs have no own­ers, he said.

It is high­light­ing the detri­men­tal im­pact dog at­tacks can have on sheep farm­ers’ liveli­hoods, both fi­nan­cially and emo­tion­ally.

He said he did not go sheep­herd­ing af­ter many of his sheep were killed by dogs. “I am sending my wife and daugh­ters to look af­ter the sheep since I can’t run af­ter the dogs if it hap­pens again,” he said, adding that he can’t bear the pain of see­ing the an­i­mals be­ing killed.

Aum Kumbu Dem, an­other mem­ber, said many of the peo­ple have sold their sheep. “It is dif­fi­cult for smaller fam­i­lies as we have to en­gage in agri­cul­tural work,” she said

She also said she likes to rear large pop­u­la­tion of sheep if there is no dog. The pop­u­la­tion of dos has been in­creas­ing in the last few years. “There was no dog in the vil­lage, even a pet dog. How­ever, with the in­creas­ing num­ber of dogs around, I face a lot of dif­fi­culty in rear­ing sheep,”she said.

Phub Lham sold most of her sheep to the Jakar sheep con­ser­va­tion and sus­tain­able uti­liza­tion since she doesn’t have any­one to rear them.

How­ever, with the es­tab­lish­ment of the new pro­ject, any mem­ber is not al­lowed to sell the sheep.

A sheep herder, An­gay Pas­sang Gyem, 76, said in the past, they didn’t have to look af­ter sheep. “We would re­lease sheep in the morn­ing and they would be back home by evening,” she said. “Now I have to look af­ter them ev­ery day to pro­tect from dog at­tacks.”

Be­sides, the bear is also a big chal­lenge dur­ing the sum­mer. For­mer Gup said bears break the win­dows or doors of the sheep pens, how­ever strong they are, to at­tack the sheep.

The other ob­jec­tive of the pro­ject is fo­cused on en­cour­ag­ing con­tin­u­ing sheep rear­ing in the com­mu­nity. The pop­u­la­tion of the sheep has been de­clin­ing be­cause of dif­fi­cul­ties in rear­ing.

The sheep, many of them preg­nant, had been herded into a tight group against a wood fence where they can save the sheep eas­ily from at­tack by dogs and bears.

To pre­vent at­tacks by dogs on sheep, Pas­sang Tob­gay, 29, the chair­per­son of the sheep as­so­ci­a­tion, ex­pects the gov­ern­ment to pro­vide the strong fenc­ing.

“Gov­ern­ment has been sup­port­ing so far how­ever, we would ap­pre­ci­ate if it could sup­ply us fenc­ing,”he said. “I have no doubt in in­creas­ing the pop­u­la­tion of sheep if there are no dogs.”

Be­ing the chair­per­son, he is re­spon­si­ble for con­duct­ing the meet­ings at least twice a year. He is a rep­re­sen­ta­tive and should con­tact all the rel­e­vant agen­cies for nec­es­sary ac­tions.

It is an in­creas­ing prob­lem across the vil­lage. Sadly this is all too com­mon dur­ing the lamb­ing sea­son.

How­ever, Sonam Tamang, Prin­ci­pal Bio­di­ver­sity Of­fi­cer of Na­tional Bio­di­ver­sity Cen­tre in Ser­bithang said there are no so­lu­tions since the chal­lenge was with dogs and wildlife at­tack. “We in­formed in­di­vid­u­als to man­age in rear­ing the sheep to pro­tect from such case,” He said.

The ma­jor ob­jec­tive is to pre­serve the Bhutanese cul­ture by pro­duc­ing wool prod­ucts. Sheep wool is the most widely used an­i­mal fiber, and is usu­ally har­vested by shear­ing in the olden days.

Phob­jikha is a cold place where it snows dur­ing the win­ter. In the olden days vil­lagers were mostly associated with sheep pro­duc­tion to keep them warm and it was part of their cul­ture.

Aum Dema said mostly women used to wear thick kira pro­duced by wool dur­ing win­ter and af­ter the birth. “Phob­jikha is cold place where we have to pro­tect our­selves from cold weather,” she said, adding that the prac­tice of wear­ing of thick clothes af­ter the birth is still be­ing prac­ticed in the vil­lage.

Many of the fam­i­lies own kira and gho, blan­ket and bed cover pro­duced from sheep wool in the house. They rarely use the wool pro­duc­tion since the cloths can be pur­chased at the cheap­est rate from the neigh­bor­ing coun­tries. “We sell the wool prod­ucts to tourist and it is more ex­pen­sive than other hand­made prod­ucts,” Dema said.

Sheep con­tinue to be im­por­tant for wool pro­duc­tion to­day, and male sheep are also oc­ca­sion­ally raised for lo­cal sac­ri­fi­cial of­fer­ings.

Some of the peo­ple tra­di­tion­ally sac­ri­fice sheep for lo­cal deities. The cul­ture has been prac­ticed for hun­dreds of year. The com­mu­nity raises a white male sheep to of­fer to the lo­cal de­ity.

Lo­cal peo­ple said they can’t avoid the of­fer­ing and they have to con­tinue it since the de­ity is very sen­si­tive.

NBC starts with an ob­jec­tive for niche wool prod­uct devel­op­ment and di­ver­sify prod­ucts from Jakar sheep to en­hance in­come of the com­mu­ni­ties.

Wool can be col­lected twice in a year to pro­duce tra­di­tional clothes.

The gen­er­ated in­come can be used for the pur­pose of pur­chas­ing equip­ment, in in­creas­ing the pop­u­la­tion of sheep and pas­ture-land, agri­cul­tural devel­op­ment, sick­ness and ed­u­ca­tion pur­pose.

The wool can be col­lected twice in a year and the farm­ers’ group can be al­lowed to di­vide the profit if the in­come ex­ceeds 0.3 mil­lion.

The in­come gen­er­ated can be saved 30 per­cent for wildlife pre­da­tion, 10 per­cent for ad­min­is­tra­tion, 15 per­cent for train­ing field, 15 per­cent for life in­sur­ance and 30 per­cent for emer­gency.

Com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tive meet­ing and in­for­ma­tion on base­line data of Jakar sheep was con­ducted by NBC to as­sess and doc­u­ment ex­ist­ing sta­tus at the start of the pro­ject on sheep pop­u­la­tion, wool prod­uct pro­cess­ing, mar­ket­ing, con­straints in sheep farm­ing and de­fine sup­port­ive mea­sure re­quired for con­ser­va­tion and en­hanc­ing in­come gen­er­a­tion from Jakar sheep.

The tech­nol­ogy sup­port like la­bor sav­ing de­vice was iden­ti­fied as im­por­tant for ef­fi­cient qual­ity and faster wool shear­ing/ pro­cess­ing and spin­ning. There­fore, equip­ments were sup­plied by NBC to the groups and trained on sheep shear­ing and use of wool card­ing and spin­ning equip­ments at Phob­jikha.

Eight wool drum carder, eight wool spin­ning wheel and 22 sheep shear blade equip­ment each cost­ing of Nu.74, 580, Nu.40, 838 and Nu.1, 890 re­spec­tively.

The equip­ment should be used for sheep shear­ing and wool pro­cess­ing and spin­ning within farm­ers’ group only.

A three-day farm­ers’ train­ing was con­ducted by NBC dur­ing Fe­bru­ary 2016 at Phob­jikha to mo­bi­lize sheep rear­ing farm­ers on Jakar sheep group for­ma­tion and draft­ing of by-laws.

The Dzongkhag ad­min­is­tra­tion, Wang­duepho­drang, im­ple­mented an act for the sheep con­ser­va­tion and sus­tain­able uti­liza­tion.

The dam­age and loss should be sole re­spon­si­ble of the group. Pas­sang Tob­gay said the farm­ers group agree and un­der­stand that if the equip­ment items are stolen, mis­placed, de­stroyed, etc. are re­spon­si­ble and will be re­lo­cated by the group.

“Main­tain­ing the equip­ment in work­ing con­di­tions and will be the poverty of the group,” he said.

Cur­rently there are 34 reg­is­tered mem­bers in the sheep con­ser­va­tion and sus­tain­able uti­liza­tion. To be a mem­ber, a farmer should have at least a min­i­mum of 15 sheep.

The Phobji Ge­wog is home to 380 house­holds and ap­prox­i­mately 5,800 peo­ple who mostly de­pend on agri­cul­ture and live­stock.

Phob­jikha is one of the largest and pop­u­lated Ge­wogs un­der Wang­due Dzongkhag and peo­ple are largely de­pen­dent on agri­cul­ture and do­mes­tic an­i­mals. To­day Phob­jikha is known only for its black­necked crane and, to a lesser ex­tent, its pota­toes.

The Na­tional Bio­di­ver­sity Cen­tre (NBC), Ser­bithang, Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Forests ini­ti­ated con­ser­va­tion of Phob­jikha sheep in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Wang­due Dzongkhag ad­min­is­tra­tion on 14 Fe­bru­ary2016.

The fi­nan­cial sup­port for main­te­nance of Jakar sheep nu­cleus herd at sheep farm and sup­ply of breed­ing rams and pas­ture devel­op­ment for sheep rear­ing farm­ers has been pro­vided.

(This ar­ti­cle is re­ported with sup­port from DoIM)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Bhutan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.