In Tibetan nomad dialect, yak is nor, meaning wealth. Nomads of the Tibetan Plateau rely on livestock to meet all of their subsistence needs, but climate and disease can devastate an entire herd, leaving herders with no livelihood and no prospects. Approximately 40% of the Tibetan population is nomadic or semi-nomadic. A sustainable way for The Bridge Fund to reduce both poverty among nomadic herding populations has been to provide credit in the form of yak, sheep or goats.
Through The Bridge Fund’s micro lending program, livestock loans are made to families for a period of three to five years. As of December 2006, over 3,397 yaks, 4,760 goats and 3,100 sheep had been loaned to local nomads through Bridge Fund-sponsored loan programs. Loan recipients increase their herd through breeding in order to pay off the loan in kind and, more importantly, subsist on wool, milk, dung fuel and other by-products of herding—often with a surplus benefit to a larger community.
In Washul, a community yak trust has been established to supply livestock products to local families and an elderly home built by The Bridge Fund and the local community. This yak trust is managed and administered by Buddhist leaders, who also help care for the residents of the elderly home. It is fitting that the Washul yak trust is run by monks, since land surrounding Tibetan monasteries has traditionally been designated a safe haven for animals.
TBF supports veterinary training and a range of activities, including nomad doctor training, birth attendant training, water and solar projects, co-op development, school improvements and scholarships based on priorities set by local communities.