Around 1,000kg of yarchagumba, widely known as the Himalayan Viagra, was illegally exported from Upper Dolpa to China before winter settled in this year. Chinese businessmen had arrived in huge numbers at the border area near Tinje village to buy the 'insect-turned-plant' believed to be a sexual stimulant in traditional oriental medicine in South-east Asia and even here in Nepal. "There were lots of people this time," says Chandra Shahi of Dunai. "We could not get more than one and a half kilogram." Many locals said even Maoists came to the highlands to gather yarchagumba.
This time trade was different: the Chinese came with food and clothes to barter for yarchagumba and prices varied widely between Rs 60,000 and 150,000 per kilogram, depending on the quality. It was market time and everyone wanted to turn a profit, and most of the transactions took place with the government getting only a meagre Rs 60,000 revenue of only three kilograms. The reason is simple: the government's revenue rate of Rs 20,000 per kilogram is exorbitant for yarchgumba collectors who prefer to sell their collection illegally to Chinese
"We know there have been illegal transactions of yarchagumba in Upper Dolpo," says CDO Gyan Prasad Dhakal. "But we can't help it until security is tightened on the northern border." Dolpo adjoins Tibet and has no security personnel at all. Hostile terrain and the Maoist insurgency has confined both the police and the army
to the district headquarters. "If only there were proper security arrangements, we could collect millions of rupees as royalties from the yarchagumba collectors," says Dhakal.