Before tourism came to Langtang we lived on agriculture and our animals. I remember as a child going after my uncle’s goats while they grazed to see that none were lost and they all went home together. I really didn’t like it at all… It was a very hard job that lasted almost all day and we always had to go up very difficult places to bring down some stray goats, and if they didn’t come back all they would scold us and the next day we should go to look for them. Buf…
I tell you all this so that you understand that our town has a great pasturing tradition, especially with yaks. Nak’s milk (the female yak) is a very important element in our diet, and it is also used to make cheese. In general, Buddhists do not kill animals and we are basically vegetarians; we only eat meat if the animal has suffered an accident, another animal has attacked it, it has fallen down a ravine or anything like that … My father once sacrificed a chicken to give it to my mom who just had another child and was very weak; even though it was totally necessary, my father remembers that with guilt.
In the town it was common to drink milk directly from the yaks’ tit until one day my sister Dechen He made a mistake and wanted to drink milk from a male yak and took a good mess on the floor.
Depending on the time of year, shepherds live in one part of the valley or another, sometimes even spending seasons at high altitudes where these furry animals spend the summer more comfortable. In order to move with the animals, the shepherds build cabins wherever they go. They are very basic huts where you can shelter from the cold and rain. They should also build yak shelters and take care of them when there is a lot of snow or storms. Otherwise the animals would go to seek refuge far from the humans and they would become wild, so that we could not take advantage of their milk.
I remember that in our family we had a yak with a white spot on his face; It was very familiar and he always came home at night. He loved us very much and let us drink milk and played with us very carefully. One day he did not return and we worried a lot. The next day we searched for him for hours, until my father found him in the river with a leg caught in the rocks. He had spent an entire day and night there, enduring the icy waters coming down from the glaciers. Luckily we were able to rescue him and he only limped for a few days …
There are still many people in the Langtang area who are pastoralists and live in this nomadic way, but after the earthquake in April 2015 all the animals were lost. For a survival economy like that of the herders it would have been impossible to recover from this blow, they would never have had the means to buy new animals and continue with their traditional work. In addition to the fact that many had lost their families in the catastrophe and did not have the strength to get up again …
Luckily for them at the end of 2015 there was a capital delivery to the Langtang Committee to buy yaks from Mrs. Ayako Sadakane, a Japanese woman who lived with us for a long time in Langtang and became part of our community. He has always helped us in everything and we will be very grateful.
Yak Project 2018 with Julè & Namasté
March 31, 2018– To continue supporting families and preserve the pastoral culture in the Langtang area, we have distributed 25 yaks (Dzomo in Tibetan) among the most affected families.
All this has been done thanks again to our friends from the NGO Jule & Namaste (Langtang Reconstruction), who from Bolzano (Italy) have been 100% involved in this project. Not only have they managed to raise funds, but they have once again come in person to experience first-hand the delivery of these animals to each family.
Carrying out this project has not been an easy task since my father, along with 3 other men from Langtang, went to different areas of Helambu and Gatlang for 15 days, negotiating hard with the ranchers until they were able to gather the 25 promised yaks. They were then taken on a two-day journey to Langtang, where they met our friends from Julè & Namasté.
This time Luciano came with his son Emil, Ivan with his son Sebastian and of course our beloved Fabio. It has been a very physical job since taking these young yaks on trails for several days, without trucks, without roads, everything must be done in the traditional way and it is really exhausting. But finally everything went very well and we are very proud of this great new job together.
And of course, on the way to Langtang the Italian expedition distributed warm clothing to everyone who needed it …
The cheese factory in Kyangin Gumpa
In 1954, the Swiss started the first Himalayan yak cheese production initiative in Kyangin Gumpa. Gyalpu explains that his family has been working in the factory for three generations.
The 2015 earthquake destroyed the factory and killed some shepherds and almost all the yaks that supplied this factory with milk.
Thanks to Gyalpu’s effort, the factory is being rebuilt and Julè & Namasté have financed the purchase of the large stainless steel container for boiling milk and various materials.
Gyalpu gave them a guided tour of the new building, showing our friends the process they follow for the cheese factory.
With this project we assure the work of the nomadic shepherds who already have a place where they can sell their milk and continue with their tradition.
Lhakpa y Karchung´s house
As we had already announced in the previous post and also thanks to the financing of Julè and Namasté we have been able to build a house for Lhakpa y Karchung.
Karchung had become disabled during the earthquake with large rocks falling on her legs while trying to help tourists. They are the only Langtang family who have not yet obtained Nepalese nationality and are therefore left out of the scant help they can give from the Nepalese government, and since they are herders of yaks, their economy is subsistence. They alone could never have saved enough to build a house.
And thanks also to Kitty Heldwoman for continuing to help with the rent of the apartment in Kathmandu, where Karchung spends seasons to have his leg checked and where he can take his children when they leave school on vacation. While Karchung is not there, this apartment is not empty, since it is occupied by a young orphan from the earthquake who has no other place to live.
You can see the first project we did with Julè & Namasté at the following link: