Trekking in Nepal

Many Uses for Yak Dung

In the highlands of the Himalayas, the Sherpa villagers carry on the pastoral herding of yaks across the rocky mountain trails to pack heavy loads, to graze on the steep, grassy hillsides, and work the potato fields. One of the most resourceful uses for the yaks though is to collect their dung from the trails to dry out and use as fuel for fires. The Sherpa people rely on small iron stoves to heat their homes and for cooking in their kitchens. Above a certain elevation there just is no wood to be found, and the government has placed tight restrictions on the wooded lands throughout the protected Himalayan forests. This has reinforced the old practice of collecting the dung to dry out into patties and then to break up and burn in the stoves. The dried dung has no strong odor and burns very hot. For those who enjoy the warmth of the hot stove on cold night really treasure it regardless of the origin. Many a trekker can be heard pleading, "Another yak dung, please."

In more recent decades kerosene fuel has become more popular for heating water and cooking meals, but it is an expensive commodity. It is a heavy liquid that must be carried on the backs of porters. It also contributes to a bit of pollution, so it plays against the designs for better natural conservation within the National Parks of Nepal. Dung turns out to be a fairly clean and a very inexpensive resource. The yaks do their part to sweep the hills for their bounty of drying grass and pass it on for further use behind them. It only needs to be collected from the copious deposits on the trails and set out to dry. Many homes in the villages have a tall stack of the flattened and dried chips that wait in storage under a tarp for the coldest winter nights.

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