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Yaks for haute couture

2013-11-20 09:15:24

(China Daily) By Lin Qi


Dechen Yeshi and her daughter at the Zorge Ritoma village in Gansu province. Photo provided to China Daily

She is a social entrepreneur who wanted to do something to improve the lot of her father's people. The answer was always right under the noses of the nomadic Tibetans, as she tells Lin Qi.

For generations, the villagers of Zorge Ritoma on the eastern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau had depended on raising yaks as their major source of income. Overgrazing, however, had gradually desiccated their livelihood as nomads.

Many of the able-bodied among them are abandoning the harsh realities of herding for a more tempting urban life. The village, filled with old people unwilling to leave and their grandchildren, seem doomed to face a bleak future.

That is, until they were told one day that the fine fibers from their young yak's may be the answer to a brighter outlook. Eight years later, the luxurious yak wool they are producing is keeping them warm and fed and linked, surprisingly, to the haute couture realm half a world away.

The woman who brought about these changes is Dechen Yeshi, 30, who manages a social enterprise called Norlha in Zorge Ritoma which hand-processes yak wool and sell it to fashion houses in Paris.

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