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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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Behind The Scenes: One Kyrgyz Family

In 2013 when we first began collecting cashmere in Kyrgyzstan our Kyrgyz general manager Kanat and I worked to appoint a coordinator for each village in the regions where we were buying cashmere.  Jengish and his wife Uuzbu. As we entered one particular small village Kanat pulled the car over and called his mother to ask if they had any “relatives” in this village. In Kyrgyzstan the word “relative” is very wide reaching as it is a small country with close knit communities and layers of connections. Kanat’s mother replied that she needed to check. A few minutes later the phone rang, and news came that there was a relative in this village named Jengish and she went on to explain the...

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Back in Kyrgyzstan

Since coming back to Kyrgyzstan we have joked with our friends that we came here to rest...the two months leading up to our departure with travel and packing, while maintaining the business were some of the most full and logistically challenging that my wife and I have ever had to navigate. Thankfully the trip went fairly smoothly and our children cooperated quite well. It was such a relief to finally arrive to our house in Kyrgyzstan and know that we will be rooted here in one place for an extended period of time. It is almost a tradition that the first day back from the States there will be a water or electric problem in one's house...sure enough the very...

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