The Yakhouse

Promotion of local handicrafts
The PHIP-supported Yakhouse is an association of women involved in the creation and marketing of local handicrafts. The Yakhouse aims to combine local skills, traditional knowledge and the continuation of regional products in the production of marketable goods. It aims to create economic opportunities for vulnerable groups in the population, including women, and to preserve and develop traditional knowledge.

Using historical patterns and designs, the women produce traditional handicrafts, such as wool carpets and embroidered wall hangings. Traditional techniques are used to produce modern designs, including cushion covers, embroidered purses and handbags. Manufactured in Murghab district, they are also for sale in selected locations in Khorog, Dushanbe and Bishkek. In the Murghab, Yakhouse products are for sale and traditional objects are on display in a small museum. All revenues go directly to the women producing the items. The Yakhouse is now striving to diversify its products and to join a wider network of Central Asian fair-trade producers.

Interview with Bubusara Mahmitova, President of the Yak House, October 29th, 2003.

Bubusara was born in Murghab in 1963, she is married and has five children, four sons and one daughter, aged between four and twenty years old. Under the Soviet Union, Bubusara was a handicraft teacher and was earning 94 roubles a month (3,5 USD). Her husband was a pilot, working for Murghab airport. The family lived comfortably. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Bubusara's salary was reduced to 14 somonis a month , whilst her husband lost his job with the closure of Murghab airport. Her husband was not able to engage into any income generating activities as he fall sick. He has since been allocated a 30 somonis invalidity pension a month. This pension is however not always paid on time. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Bubusara's salary and her husband pension hardly allowed their family to cover basic needs.

Bubusara has been a member of the Yak House since its creation, in 2000. She then stopped working as a teacher as the income she was earning from the sales of her handicraft was much higher than her salary. Bubusara was elected by the Yak House members as their president in 2002. She produces both woollen carpets and embroideries, which are sold in Central Asia and France. Her income from the handicrafts products sales averages over 500 somonis a year. This represents 60% of the household income, the rest of the family income consisting in Bubusara's husband pension. The family has no other sources of income. Bubusara's income has allowed her to send her daughter to Murghab pedagogical school and cover the school 100 somonis yearly fees. Her daughter has since become a school teacher in Murghab. It also allows her to pay for her husband's medical treatment.

The Yak House did not only allow Bubusara to earn a decent living, she also had the opportunity to participate in handicrafts exhibitions and workshops in Dushanbe and Bishkek, which gave her the opportunity to meet clients and learn new weaving techniques. She in turn trained her fellow Yak House members to use these techniques. As a President of the Yak House, Bubusara, together with the secretary and the treasurer of the Yak House, follows up on the Yak House fund. 10% of the incomes generated by the Yak House products sales is allocated to the Yak House fund, which is used to provide micro finance services to the Yak House members and allows them to engage into small business activities, further diversifying their sources of income. One of the thing Bubusara is most proud of is the exportation of some of the Yak House products in France.