Gangtok based Niha Pradhan is a wellness products maker such as soaps, candles and tableware. She seeks to use products of the highest quality and hope to make a sustainable, ethical brand that can also help her partners grow with her. With this objective in mind, she propose a collaboration with the yak herders of Sikkim wherein she would buy yak milk directly from the local farmers and use them to create a product line of handcrafted soaps. The herders will also be entitled to a percentage of the sales.
Her soaps, currently sold under the name- Bodylicious is our best-selling product and well loved by its patrons for their 100% organic and chemical free nature. Introduction and use of yak milk would bring added value to her product as its milk is considered a far superior alternative to those that are more commonly used in the beauty industry.
But, more importantly, she hope that through ‘Project Yak’ she can help encourage yak husbandry in the valley by building a business relationship with the herders, which in turn, would help raise yak population that is momentarily at a rapid decline.
For this project, She is partnering with an established veterinarian- Dr. Sonam Diki Lepcha who is equally concerned and passionate about the yak population. She is a recognized face amongst herders and already has an ongoing relationship with them which is foundational to the success of this project.
Through initial research, Mrs.Pardhan have been able to pin-point two major factors in the current decline of the yak population:
1. Global warming- the impact of which was witnessed by the Sikkimese Himalayas like never before leading to the deaths of more than 500 yaks in the valley. The effect of which will reverberate for years to come.
2. The highlanders opting for a different and a more convenient lifestyle- traditional Yak herding can be a harsh process with poor economic returns due to the unavailability of a proper market for yak-based products, which deters the younger generation from continuing to practice yak husbandry.
While tackling the effects of global warming is a long-term effort, she understands that the need of the hour is to create a viable market for yak-based products. The Yak has always been closely associated with the Sikkimese culture and social life, many still depend on the animal for their livelihood, therefore, it is requisite that we work towards their conservation and make the effort to encourage the highlanders to continue practicing yak husbandry.