Nomadic Trails in Bhutan
TerraGreen|November 2020
Sephu and Layap Pastoral Communities
Dr Chandra Prakash Kala

In this article, Dr Chandra Prakash Kala shares his vivid experiences while interacting with the pastoral communities of Bhutan.

While driving to the beautiful Phobjikha valley in Bhutan via Punakha, a few kilometres after Dungdungneysa, I saw a large herd of yaks grazing on a pastureland surrounded by conifer forests. There was no human habitation except a temporary hut in the middle of the sloppy pastureland. An isolated hut in the wilderness area aroused my curiosity to know about the people living so close to the nature. Before I trudged down to the hut, I saw a woman spreading some products over the hut. She hanged some products from the strings tied before the hut.

When I reached close to the hut I sensed a strong smell coming out from the products hanging from the strings. By the time I reached the hut, a sturdy old man stood before me to welcome me and my colleague. In the beginning, he anticipated that we approached him for purchasing some of his products, which include mats, yak cheese, medicinal herbs, yarshagumba, ropes, yak meat, etc. The hut was jam-packed with products and daily use cooking, bedding, and other articles.

In the middle, a utensil was placed over a traditional earthen stove. When I inquired, I was informed that they were making cheese. It was quite difficult to breathe in a small room that was full of articles, and rest of the space was packed with smoke. I sat close to the single entry point of the hut to grasp some fresh air from outside while talking to Tawla, an old man belonging to the Sephu pastoral community. Sephu is one of the blocks in Bhutan, whose resident is known as Sephu.

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