Arkhangai is one of the 21 regions of Mongolia located 460 kms west of the capital Ulaanbaatar (UB). The breeders who are part of Sustainable Cashmere Union (SCU) are located in the 2 departments in the north: Jargalant and Tsetserleg for what concerns the production of cashmere, with the famous black-haired Capra Hircus named Erchmiin Har. For the yak breeders -members of SCU via CAAD– we find them in 6 departments: Erdene Bulgan, Chuluut, Tariat, Jargalant, Tsetserleg, Khangai.
The altitude and the rivers give the Khangai Mountains their coniferous forests (15% of the surface) and their alpine pastures (70%) which explain the quality of its ecosystems but also the importance of the breeding. The continental climate brings long and harsh winters where goats and yaks are the most adapted animals to these conditions. However, the natural ecosystems of the Arkhangai province -which represents an important area for the conservation of forest steppe ecosystems in Mongolia- are considered to be very vulnerable to economic development and climate change. Indeed, the region is already undergoing rapid environmental change, with significant decreases in the total amount of average precipitation that is the main driver of vegetation productivity for semi-arid ecosystems.
The yaks of the Khangai Mountains live at high altitudes, above 2,000 meters, and must endure particularly harsh temperatures during the winter months, which is why their fiber provides such good thermal insulation. They feed naturally by grazing on high altitude plant species, they produce various materials usable by humans such as down, dairy products, meat. Khangai yaks live in harmony with the land and the needs of semi-nomadic herders.
Arkhangai province is home to nearly 40% of Mongolia’s 700,000 yaks and 70% of those combed. This province, which includes a large part of the Khangai Mountains, has long been the cradle of combed yaks and thus of yak fiber of uniform quality.
Agronomes et Vétérinaires Sans Frontières (AVSF) worked with these herders from 2004 to 2010. The NGO trained the herders in basic veterinary care and also worked with them on the sustainable management of pastoral resources, combing techniques, logistical organization, processing and sale of their products.