Arkhangai, Mongolia – Yaks have roamed Mongolia’s highlands for centuries. They have long been reared in Central Asia for their milk and meat.
But herders in Mongolia discovered that the yaks’ soft woolly undercoat – which they shed every spring – might be a money spinner.
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“We started collecting yak fibre in 2010. We have been selling the yak fibre directly to our cooperative, and this has had a very good influence on our lives,” Nyambuu-nyadmaa, a yak herder, told Al Jazeera.
The yak herders’ cooperative sells the wool to factories in Europe with the help of a French nonprofit organisation that also trains them to spin and sell their hand-spun yarn at home and abroad.
The fashion industry is also warming to yak fibre. At the Paris Fashion Week, Aruinaa Suri, a fashion designer known for her cashmere, leather and felt designs, realised it was her new line of yak wool garments that got the most attention.
“There were people who were touching yak wool fibre for the first time,” Suri said.
“They found it really interesting. It was almost as if they liked this material the most.”
With growing interest in the fibre and the new income opportunity it holds, yaks continue to be an important part of the landscape here.