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Sheep Account Bankrolls Tibetan Nomads

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 00/11/03; November 3, 2000.]

BBC; Friday, 3 November, 2000.

Tibetan nomads finding it hard to make ends meet on the harsh Himalayan Plateau can now call on the services of a sheep bank to help see them through.

The bank, based in the Australian state of Tasmania, lends sheep instead of money with interest paid back in the form of young female lambs.

Run by a Buddhist husband and wife team the sheep bank is designed as a novel way of reducing inequality among Tibetan nomads by providing funds to purchase sheep from wealthy Tibetan landowners.

The idea is that customers keep their accounts in balance by keeping the products of their borrowed flock, such as milk, wool and most of the offspring.

After an agreed length of time the sheep are returned, plus a lamb levy which is considered the scheme's profit.

Paybaaaaaaack

Within four years the herds are expected to have bred sufficiently to pay back half the number of sheep borrowed.

The nomad returns half the new ewes that are mature enough to breed the following season and the other half the year after.

Over the past 12 months the group, called the Benevolent Organisation for Development, Health and Insight (BODHI Inc.) has lent some 200 sheep to four families of Tibetan nomads.

The young reproductive ewes returned to the bank are then farmed out to help other nomads in what is hoped will become a self-sustaining model for rural development.

The project's founders say the concept is simple yet effective.

"The idea is to give the nomads a economic base to feed their families," says Sheep Bank co-founder Dr Colin Butler.

"It's in the interest of the herdsman to build his flocks as quickly as possible... [That way] both the herdsmen and the fund become completely self-sufficient."


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