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Cashmere and Caring for the land.

Southern Kyrgyzstan, photo: Erica Manning Historically, the vast majority of the world's cashmere has come from Mongolia and China. In recent decades, the rapidly increased production of this fiber has contributed to land overuse and land desertification in the region, the negative climate effects of which are felt even along the west coast of the United States. Native goats to Kyrgyzstan - referred to as 'jaidiri', meaning local goat; photo: June Cashmere Goats aren't innately bad to the land if managed properly; total animal numbers (including goats, sheep, cows, and any other animals being grazed) need to be kept in proportion to the size and topography of the area of land being grazed. Traditional grazing methods understood the importance of numbers in an animal...

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Springing with kids!

Spring. The time of renewal, hope, and . . . birth! Of kids!     We purchase cashmere fiber from shepherds in the Chong Alai region of southern Kyrgyzstan. In this high mountain region, goats give birth once a year – preferably in spring, when there is more food for grazing and time for the kids to grow before going to jailoo – the high mountain pastures where shepherds live in yurts and graze their animals until fall. If all goes well, birthing takes about an hour. If there are twins, the babies are small and birthing is easier. If the kids are large, the mother may have difficulty and shepherds may have to help the birthing process by pulling...

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On the Silk Road with June Cashmere - Back to school.

IN a normal year, September 1 is always the first day of school in Kyrgyzstan - no matter on which day of the week it falls. This year, because of the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 virus, the start of school was delayed, starting this week on September 15.   Before the big day, the school grounds are spruced up…everything is swept, walls are whitewashed, and parents prepare their children to look their best. Girls wear black skirts with white shirts or blouses and often have large hair bows in their hair.  The boys wear black pants, white shirts, and a bow tie or tie.  Many students come with a bouquet of flowers to give to their teacher  Photo: USAID Kyrgyz Republic On...

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Field Notes: Collecting Cashmere for Yarn

Seeing tangible progress with the villages and shepherds in which we’ve invested so heavily is always encouraging. For example, we’ve been collecting cashmere in the Chong Alai valley since 2013, and have seen a huge shift in the process during the last 5 years. At first, the shepherds were not familiar with the process of combing goats rather than shearing. Much of the fiber was full of coarse guard hair instead of clean cashmere, and the mix of fiber quality from great to poor was more pronounced.   Since then, combing has become the standard means of collecting cashmere and the majority of people are bringing in very cleanly combed fiber. Overall, we are seeing a greater consistency in the...

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The Process of Collecting Cashmere Fiber

It is hard to believe that we are starting on our fifth cashmere collection season. The years are really beginning to blur together! I moved to Kyrgyzstan in late 2010 with my family and after a period of language learning, research, and social networking, we collected our first cashmere in the spring of 2013. At the time, people were shearing their goats and the fiber was being sold to middlemen, who in turn sold it to traders who sent it on to China. The price being paid to the shepherds was a flat rate based on weight, rather than quality. Our plan was to purchase combed fiber instead of sheared—this leaves the protective guard hair on the goat’s body while also...

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