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«FAO ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND HEALTH paper ADDING VALUE TO LIVESTOCK DIVERSITY Marketing to promote local breeds and improve livelihoods Cover ...»

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Though some fine cashmere was present in the samples from Naryn province, interbreeding with the introduced non-cashmere breeds (Pridon and Angora) has lowered the fibre quality of many goats there. Some 10–18% of the samples from this province were thicker than 18 microns. Kyrgyz traders in Osh corroborate these findings: they say that fibre from mountainous areas is always more expensive than from valley areas.

Some animals have ultra-fine cashmere. Some livestock keepers’ goats had very fine cashmere of 13 microns in diameter. Such fine fibre is extremely rare and forms an important genetic base for breeding goats with fine cashmere.

Flocks are mixed. Some other goats had coarse down, up to 22 microns in diameter, well above the standard accepted as cashmere. Within individual flocks, there were differences of up to 6.5 microns in the mean fibre diameter of different animals. That would have a major impact on the commercial value of their cashmere.

Remote districts have white or cream fibres. In Alay and Chong Alay districts, 29% of the cashmere was white, compared to only 14% in Naryn, where black goats predominate (79% of samples). Furthermore, 14% of the Osh districts’ cashmere was light yellow or cream, also appreciated in the processing industry as white and lighter colours can be more easily dyed.

Finer cashmere is wavy. The study confirmed that coarse fibres are straighter than fine cashmere. Buyers have long known this: they use the waviness to class cashmere into lots for sale, so avoid having to send samples to a laboratory for testing.

PART 1: Wool and cashmere 37 Overall, the tests show that some livestock keepers, villages and districts have better cashmere goats than others. But because the goats are variable, the fibre is not uniform, even within a single flock. Mixed lots of variable cashmere are less attractive for commercial buyers who seek the best quality and are willing to pay more for this.


The project responded to the villagers’ request for training by conducting six workshops in five districts. The 113 participants included village organizations, district agricultural officers, and village-based cashmere traders, and Aga Khan Foundation staff. The training covered cashmere goat identification, combing, sorting the fibre, village bulk marketing, international standards and demands.

Participants complained about the lack of cashmere buyers, leaving the Chinese as an effective monopoly buyer. The livestock keepers said they did not have enough information about world markets, price and demand. Many livestock keepers confused Angora fibre (mohair) with cashmere. Most participants felt their goats were suitable only for meat rather than for producing cashmere. They also said that they did not have special tools and skills needed to comb the down.

The trainers advised the livestock keepers that the cashmere they produced did not always fulfil international standards for cashmere, which discouraged Western buyers from Kyrgyzstan. Crossing jaidari goats with Angora or Pridon breeds lowers the quality of cashmere produced. The trainers showed samples of Chinese, Mongolian and Afghani cashmere so they could see what the world standard is like. The livestock keepers noted that some of their own goats produced cashmere that was just as fine as these samples.

Advice was also given on feeding goats for better nutrition. There were practical demonstrations of how to comb goats, and how to identify and sort cashmere according to main quality characteristics.

Several hundred cashmere combs were distributed to villages, for sale at $7 each. Some village organizations sold them on credit to their members, while other combs were sold at markets and at the training workshops. The demand for combs far outstripped the supply.

A comb can last a lifetime, so is a good investment.

The participants were encouraged to form marketing groups to sell cashmere in bulk, and to decide how to get veterinary treatment, produce feed, and sort and process cashmere.

Following these workshops, Aga Khan Foundation staff livestock staff also advised villagers on cashmere production and handling.


In 2008, the Odessa Centre, the Kyrgyz Cashmere Producers’ Association, together with an Australian cashmere researcher, joined a local livestock keeper in Alay district to form a group called QuodPod Cashmere to buy and breed 30 of the best cashmere goats, identified through the laboratory tests. QuodPod aims to use these animals to create an elite jaidari breeding flock. After several years of breeding, it should be possible to sell animals to local livestock keepers who wish to upgrade the quality of their flocks.

Adding value to livestock diversity


The project team supports villagers by creating linkages with companies in Germany, Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom, Japan and other countries that seek high-quality cashmere.

Demand for the best quality cashmere remains strong in high-end fashion houses in Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom. These companies are willing to pay livestock keepers a premium for high-quality fibre which is bulked and sorted.

The laboratory tests in 2008 were the first technical assessment of the quality of cashmere goats in Kyrgyzstan. They were important because international cashmere processors express interest in buying only after they have seen independent tests of the cashmere available. Once they know where the good and poor quality cashmere is located, they will pay more for better quality.

As a result of the project’s promotion efforts, a large-scale buyer from Germany visited remote villages of Alay and Chong Alay in June 2008, hosted by the Aga Khan Foundation.

This buyer agreed to buy fibre through village organizations in 2009, the following season.

This company has been buying cashmere from northern Kyrgyzstan since 2000. Company representatives noted that the quality of down had decreased in Naryn province in the previous 3 years, due to the livestock keepers bringing in Pridon goats to cross with their jaidari goats. Several other buyers from Poland and the United Kingdom are also establishing buying points in Osh City, with assistance from the Cashmere Producers’ Association.

Cashmere companies in India, the United States and New Zealand have also contacted the Odessa Centre about buying cashmere from Kyrgyzstan.


How do the villagers think marketing could be improved? The chairmen of village organizations formed with the support of the Aga Khan Foundation had three main requests:

Establish cashmere collection points. Older villagers remembered the Soviet centralized marketing system, where state organizations regularly collected products such as wool and milk from each large collective farm. Nowadays, private traders come to villages and buy with cash from individual households. Some villagers think they could earn more by pooling their cashmere at one place in the village, and then sell it in large lots to bigger buyers.

Train livestock keepers on selecting breeding animals. Livestock keepers need training on how to select breeding bucks and does to improve the value of the cashmere they produce. They should avoid using males with coarse cashmere for breeding, and should avoid crossing cashmere goats with Angora or Pridon animals. They should sell or slaughter goats that produce the coarsest cashmere, the least amount of fibre, and the fewest kids. They should learn to identify the animals with the best cashmere: the down is wavy rather than straight Train livestock keepers on improved production practices. Producers should comb the fine cashmere out of the goats’ fleeces before shearing them, and should separate the coarse and fine cashmere from the main bulk of the fibre. They should avoid combining Angora or Pridon fibre with jaidari goats’ cashmere.

How else to improve the market value of cashmere for Kyrgyz producers? Here are some ideas.

PART 1: Wool and cashmere 39 Provide better bucks for breeding. Kyrgyz goats produce only about one-third of the cashmere produced by improved goats bred in China – so there is a lot of scope for improvement. QuodPod Cashmere’s efforts to establish an elite herd should be continued and replicated.

Invest in Kyrgyzstan’s cashmere production. Investment by donors, local foundations and the private sector is needed to increase the number of good-quality goats and help the poorer livestock keepers and goat-breeders, especially in remote mountainous regions where goats have been traditionally bred.

Inform producers about cashmere prices. Reliable information on prices for different quality grades of cashmere would motivate livestock keepers to improve their flocks.

Improve extension services on goat and cashmere production. NGO staff and government development workers need accurate information on different qualities, current international prices for cashmere, conditions of keeping and combing goats, and so on, so they can advise producers through practical training, demonstrations and exhibitions in the villages. Producers and development agents could learn much by visiting neighbouring countries where cashmere production and processing are more developed.

Market cashmere in bulk. The village organizations established by the Aga Khan Foundation should create collection points to bulk and sort cashmere for sale to traders. This would bring better prices for livestock keepers and encourage them to make decisions collectively.

Promote handicrafts from cashmere. Products made of cashmere are in great demand. Training village women to knit or weave cashmere products would establish local industries and create employment.

Provide tools and equipment. Local blacksmiths can make the combs needed to produce high-quality cashmere. Larger investments are needed for equipment to process down to make a semi-finished product with higher value.

–  –  –

Spinning a value chain from the Gobi: Camel wool in Mongolia Sabine Schmidt, Altanchimeg Chimiddorj, Nancy Shand and Dean Officer It is minus 40°C outside, and the wind is howling across the flat, snow-covered landscape.

Outside the ger, the felted tent that many Mongols call home, the cold does not bother the family’s twin-humped, Bactrian camels: they grow thick layers of insulating wool that protects them during the harsh winters in the Gobi desert. Inside the round tent is a single room, heated by a stove in the centre. A woman sits with a hand-spindle, spinning the last of the light-brown wool shorn in previous spring. She winds the finished yarn into a skein – a loose coil of wool weighing 100 grams.

Camel wool is soft and does not stretch or “pill” when knitted (it does not form little balls of fuzz on its surface). Unlike sheep’s wool, it does not cause allergies. It keeps the wearer warm when the weather is cold, and pleasantly cool when it is warm. It has a range of earthy natural colours, from white, cream, beige, brown to black, and is ideal for dyeing.

Those are attractive properties, not only in Mongolia but also in the United States, where the winters are perhaps not quite as cold as in the Gobi, but where knitted scarves and warm socks still find eager customers.

How, then, to bring this wool from the poor, rural Mongolian women who spin it, to customers in affluent America? The answer was to build a value chain from scratch. A group of poor rural women who own few or no livestock themselves now earn 50–80% of their family’s annual income by hand-spinning yarn. This chapter describes how wool is produced in the Gobi, and how it is beginning to reach customers in the USA.


Bactrian camels are highly adapted to the desert environment. In the summer the coats is short and thin, and in the winter it grows thick and long, protecting them from the cold.

Animals can be 3 m tall and weigh up to 700 kg. They can live as long as 40 years. They are important for herders as a source of milk, wool and transport – both for riding and to carry heavy loads when the herder family moves camp. Camels are the only large animals suited for sustainable livestock husbandry in the southern Gobi.

A decline in camel numbers in Mongolia has been halted only in the last few years. In Gurvantes district, in the far south of the country, there were only just over 4 000 camels at the end of 2007, compared to 15  000 in 1975. Nationwide, the number of camels has decreased from around 900 000 in the 1950s to about 320 000 in 2000 and about 250  000 in 2002. Eating camel meat used to be taboo, but began during the socialist period when each household was allowed only a limited number of private livestock. It became more common in the 1990s when rural households were short of food and money, and when the price for camel meat increased.

Adding value to livestock diversity Camels also play a vital role in the management of the Gobi. They forage especially on a type of shrub called saxaul (Haloxylon ammondendron), especially in the winter, and help maintain saxaul forests by spreading their seeds. Intact saxaul forests protect the soil from erosion, shelter other plant species from the biting wind, and retain moisture in the soil and air. However, saxaul wood is also a major source of fuel for pastoralists as well as for urban residents. Protecting and restoring saxaul forest is an important strategy to combat desertification.

Today, government policy seeks to increase camel numbers by rewarding herders for larger herds and supporting exhibitions of camel products. The Gurvantes district government pays herders MNT 1 000 (about $0.70) for each newborn camel calf. The national government also has launched a programme to promote camel wool – though this does not provide any financing.

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