Angora goats in Tajikistan
Mohair is the fiber or product made from the hair of Angora goats. Mohair is shorn from the goat twice a year. One goat will produce 11 to 17 pounds (5–8 kg) of mohair a year. Fibers from young goats are softest and are used to manufacture yarn for clothing. Fibers from mature goats are used to produce such things as rugs and carpets.
Mohair is approximately 25–45 microns in diameter. It is one of the oldest textile fibers in use and is considered to be a luxury fiber, like cashmere, angora and silk. Mohair is not a soft yarn, when compared with alpaca or cashmere, or synthetic fibers or wools that have been treated and blended with other fibers to enhance softness. On the other hand, mohair is valued for certain unique characteristics: it is warmer than other fibers, have a distinctive luster and does not felt. These qualities guarantee that there will always be a lucrative market for mohair.
Tajik women shearing Angora goats
Enter, the poor Asht region of northern Tajikistan which rely on Angora goat production and mohair sales which bring them an annual income of US $1.5 M of which 70% of the revenue originates from Russia for the purchase of mohair from adult goats. Tajikistan sells coarse mohair knitting yarns to Russia for US $10/kg, while fine kid mohair yarns from other countries sell for as much as US $580/kg in stores in the U.S. and Europe. While Russia has supported Tajikistan with Angora goat breeding in the past, it has no capacity for marketing kid mohair which is highly prized in the world market.
The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) has taken an interest in helping to dramatically increase income of Tajikistan women by producing high quality luxury yarns and textiles. ICARDA is teaching rural women how to spin high-value, high-quality kid mohair yarns for sale in the United States. Spinners are also learning to use wooden spinning wheels that increase their productivity and make their work easier than it is with the traditional spindles. This means that a spinner could earn US$240–360 a month, that’s 4–6 times the average per capita income.
Working with farmers to improve breeding and animal maintenance is also essential in producing international-quality mohair fibers for spinning. Angora goat breeding experts, local and international, are setting up breeding nuclei on selected farms to produce high-quality bucks. These animals will then be sold or lent to other farmers.
ICARDA’s goal is to develop a cottage industry which will be providing new earning opportunities for Tajik women, improving their families’ living standards, and increasing their status within the household.
Photo Source: Clothroads.com