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Tajikistan: Yak Herders See New Challenges in Post-Communist World

Orozbek's daughters are making green tea. As my eyes adjust to the darkness inside his family's yurt, the little girls fuss with plastic cauldrons of water around a small tin stove stuffed with yak dung.

Here on the Alichur Plateau (at approximately 3,900 meters/12,800 feet), we're closer to a provincial Chinese hub than the Tajik capital in Dushanbe, three days' drive in the opposite direction. The region is populated sparsely with ethnic Kyrgyz nomads such as Orozbek. Little vegetation grows here. The skittish yak is the only beast suited to the dry, cold and brawny sun.

It is the perfect animal, says Orozbek's neighbor, 70-year-old Maksataali. "Yaks can protect themselves from wolves, unlike cows. They are better than cows. They eat less. Their milk has more fat in it. When we move around, they carry the burden." They're independent, he adds: "When a yak delivers a baby, it starts walking right away. Their babies are much stronger. They are very wild and alive."

Female yaks return on their own to be milked in the evening, Orozbek adds as his wife dollops large spoonfuls of chunky yoghurt into a bowl before me.

To read the full story

David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.

Tajikistan: Yak Herders See New Challenges in Post-Communist World

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