|Map of Central Asian Republics|
The Odessa Centre is a small firm based in rural England, with international links to researchers and practitioners in the fields of pastoralism, rangeland ecology and livestock development in semi-arid areas. Long-term projects have been carried out in Libya, Botswana, Somalia, Zambia, Namibia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
Dr. Carol Kerven of the Odessa Centre will be attending the Cashmere World Conference due to be held during the Cashmere World trade fair in Beijing on October 26th – 28th. She will be participating in the session on “Improvement of cashmere for the benefit of producers and the environment” on October 25th at 14:00 hours.
As a foretaste of what promises to be a highly informative conference, Cashmere World is delighted to publish an interview in three parts with Dr. Kerven concerning the Odessa Centre itself, its contacts with international development agencies and the work carried out by the Odessa Centre in Central Asian countries in the last decade where the cashmere industry is emerging from its infancy.
|Kyrgyz village traders learning how to assess cashmere|
Cashmere World (CW): How did the Odessa Centre manage to cooperate with governmental organizations and foundations such as the Kazakhstan Research Institute of Sheep Breeding, Global Livestock Collaborative Research Support Program (GL CRSP), Aga Khan Foundation, USAID, UNDP and German Agro Action, to quote some examples?Dr. Carol Kerven (DCK): Cooperation with these agencies and institutions initially grew out of the requirement in our projects for national scientific partners, for example, the Kazakhstan Institute of Sheep Breeding was part of our multi-country international research projects funded by the UK Department for International Development (Dfid) and the European Union (EC). We complemented the research efforts of our large-scale projects by carrying out shorter-term specific studies on cashmere, commissioned by international development agencies such as UNDP, USAID and the Aga Khan Foundation, and others. In some cases we presented these organizations with our proposals for particular studies on cashmere, at their request.
CW: We note that your work has been in Central Asia in mainly three countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. What were the reasons for concentrating on these countries and their potential cashmere industry?DCK: When we started our research in Central Asia in the mid 1990s, we focused on Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, because we had already established strong links of mutual research interests with senior Kazakh and Turkmen scientists working on livestock and rangelands in their countries. These links were forged when we met at scientific conferences in the region. Later I was invited to work as a short-term consultant on livestock-related projects in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and was able to initiate new studies on cashmere as well as create links with national livestock scientists in these countries. While Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan also have many cashmere goats, and are exporting cashmere, we have not had the opportunity in terms of time and funding to become more involved on cashmere development in these two countries.
|Tajikistan mountain pastoralists|
CW: After concluding a research study have the recommendations of the Odessa Centre been implemented and have results improved in terms of herd size and cashmere quality?DCK: Our recommendations have varied for each study in different regions of Central Asia. Our main recommendations have been as follows:
There are large information gaps at all levels of the marketing chain from Central Asian producers to national exporters, which reduce the profitability of cashmere sales to all parties. As cashmere is a new and specialized commodity in Central Asia, there is almost no accurate information on the quality available, locations of good or bad cashmere goats, commercial price differentials for quality classes, how villagers can breed and maintain better cashmere goats, how villagers should harvest and market more effectively, or indeed, how to carry out scientific research on cashmere goats.
We are less concerned with increasing herd (flock) sizes for individual villagers, as there are plenty of goats in these remote regions. Many of these goats are, however, crossbred with other non-cashmere breeds, which greatly lowers the cashmere quality, to the extent that much of the region’s goats now only produce cashgora, of much lower value. We have recommended that government livestock services and NGOs carry out information and farmer training campaigns to discourage farmers from cross-breeding. We are also concerned that present-day goat grazing management is causing land degradation around villages, as farmers lack the financial resources to take their livestock to distant pastures where better grazing is also available.
Some of our messages are getting across to local governments and development agencies in the region. We can see some results in terms of an increased awareness of the potential commercial value of cashmere, at least among local government staff and some of the larger international development agencies such as Aga Khan Foundation.
CW: For the sake of comparison what percentage of commercially available cashmere comes from the three countries mentioned above at the moment and is this commercially viable production expected to increase in the coming years?DCK: There are no national official statistics on the quantity of cashmere produced or commercially available in the three countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Cashmere is a relatively recent commodity exported from these countries. In the Soviet period which ended in 1991, these countries used to produce mohair-type goat fiber from angora and other breeds of goats, and the fiber was sent to state factories in Russia for manufacturing into garments.
For the last ten or more years, raw or partially processed cashmere has been exported mainly to western China (Xinjiang province) by truck across the borders between Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, sometimes with export permits and sometimes without. Cashmere is high value but light weight, low volume and compressible. It is not difficult to conceal when being transported. Some partially processed greasy cashmere is also exported from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to fine fiber companies in Europe and Turkey. Included in these shipments from Central Asia can be cashmere from Afghanistan and Iran.
Cashmere World thanks Dr. Kerven and the Odessa Centre for their time in completing this interview and for the comprehensive answers given to our questions. The information and statistics in this series of interviews should provide a solid background for companies and cashmere buyers interested in exploring the Central Asian nations mentioned as a source of cashmere in the coming years. Dr. Kerven can be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To read Part 3 of this interview click here. To return to Part 1 click here