Setting the mountain ablaze? The Royal Highland Festival in Bhutan from the semi-nomads’ perspective

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A study was conducted to assess the effects of the Royal Highland Festival (RHF) from the perspective of yak herders in Laya, Bhutan. Sixty-six respondents were randomly selected from amongst the domicile herders who were regular visitors to the festival. A survey was carried out through a questionnaire with mixed questions. Herders’ opinions suggest good progress of RHF as reflected by improved community vitality and networking with stakeholders. Tourists, both international and domestic, were the major contributors to the income of yak herders during the festival. Livestock products were the biggest income earner, followed by homestays. Herders were encouraged to produce more quantities of livestock products and desired to diversify yak products. Animal shows were adequate and encouraged breed improvement. The grazing resources and the environment were unharmed by the presence of animals in the festival. However, yak herders expressed concerns over the lack of skills and knowledge for yak product diversification and management of festival waste. Herders felt the need to shift the festival venue to benefit highlanders in other areas of Bhutan. The study recommends authorities to consider imparting skills to Laya communities on developing diverse and value-added yak products. Homestay owners require more capacity to manage and maintain farmhouses with proper sanitation. Effective management of festival wastes calls for a farsighted plan. Finally, to inculcate a sense of pride and ownership, the communities of Laya must be empowered to self-organize the festival, while government authorities should consider shifting the festival venue to other highland areas.




Wangdi, J., Dorji, T., & Wangchuk, K. (2021). Setting the mountain ablaze? The Royal Highland Festival in Bhutan from the semi-nomads’ perspective. Pastoralism, 11(1).

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