Nepali Times
Yarsa land



It's eight in the morning and more than 20 groups of yarsagumba collectors have already passed Reiky. Pema Tsering who owns a tea shop is too busy to even chat with customers. Like her neighbours, she is in a hurry to send her brother off on his two month yarsa-picking trip.

Mid-June to August is the prime picking season in Dolpo for yarsagumba, the Himalayan caterpillar-fungus prized in China as an aphrodisiac. But over-harvesting in past years has depleted the crop, and across the Himalaya from Rasuwa to Humla, this year's yarsa season has been a disastrous failure.

Shops, schools, government offices are closed during this season and the 29 km stretch between Lake Phoksundo and Sulligard is teeming with tens of thousands of mules and their owners. It is like the gold rush in the American outback, but many this year are returning disappointed.

Not just the people of Dolpo, but entire families from the lower valleys of mid-western Nepal have trekked up here to collect the big, bright yellow yarsagumba. A middleman here will buy the harvest for Rs 30,000 per kg and sell for up to Rs 2.5 million across the border in Tibet, and by the time it gets to pharmacies in Shanghai it can be worth $100 apiece. But this year, the low harvest is sure to raise prices.

Krishna Rokaya and his family, made the six day trek from Rukum to Sulligard in hopes of harvesting yarsa and repaying their debts. He had to take a loan to pay for the journey, but it looks like this year he will be even more indebted. "I am going to keep trying," he said, "even if I collect half a kg this season, I can feed my family for a few months."

Pushpalal Pun of Jajarkot shares a similar story. He left his BA classes, and is hoping to make a big collection this season so that his family can scratch out a living for rest of the year. But seeing the yarsa pickers coming back down the high valleys empty-handed, he fears the trip may be in vain.

Not everyone agrees that yarsa harvests are down. Ram Prasad Mahat, chairman of the Shey Phoksundo National Park and Buffer Zone Management Committee says: "Since there are more pickers, the average collection per person has gone down, but yarsas are still plentiful." He sees the increase in yarsagumba pickers as a positive sign. This year the committee collected Rs 10 million as entry fee up from Rs 6 million in 2011 and Mahat says the national park could earn up to Rs 100 million if there are stricter regulations. People from outside the district are charged Rs 1,100 while Dolpo residents pay Rs 600.

The yarsagumba picked in Dolpo go straight north to Tibet via the border points at Mamu Chhohra and Kyate Chhohra.

Read also:
Reflecting reality

Despair and hope in Dolpo, DEWAN RAI
"Politics is only for the leaders. We never expected anything from the constitution."

Dipendra Bhandari's Journey to Yarsa trailer

See also:
Gold rush in Dolpa, MAARTEN POST
The Himalayan viagra harvesting season brings tens of thousands of fortune seekers to this harsh region.

Nepal's new cash crop is a caterpillar and provides a living for hundreds of thousands

1. David Stengel
Shouldn't somebody be asking if yarsa actually works?  I suspect it's really just a placebo.  

2. RajMitch
My understanding is that the yarsagumba is a caterpillar which has bteen fatally infected by a fungus. Infected caterpillars do not survive to breed. Therefore, isn't it unlikely that "over-harvesting" could cause a decline in a given harvest?

I seriously think that the maoist leader both Baburam and Prachanda needs to be fed some yarsagumba. Their reasoning power and logical decision making powers are being eroded everyday may be the Himalayan viagra will improve their memory, intellectual Powers besides enhancing their others capacities.

4. Rajaram
Don,t depend only on Yarsa .
Try MOREL or Gucchhi chau .                                                                                            
  It  grows from Kashmir to Nepal Himalayas,in Humla Jumla.
It is in great demand in Euroupean countries and is a high value crop ,the wild ones  specially.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

5. kumar
My understanding is that the yarsagumba is a caterpillar which has bteen fatally infected by a fungus  grows from Kashmir to Nepal Himalayas,in Humla Jumla.
It is in great demand in Euroupean countries and is a high value crop ,the wild ones  specially. 

6. creationumesh
This is like a season for the people of Dolpa. But this has also hampered in growth of yarsa. Now the yarsa is not found in the lower lands where it used to grow ten years ago.
This is a serious concern.

7. PurveliKT

Thanks D.R for a splendid read....!!!

Been to La-La land, Graceland and even Gorkhaland, and- for heaven's sake- then, how could I miss such a Splendid YarsaLand.... I will definitely go there,  next time, to promote domestic tourism. This is the least the least I can do for my MotherLand.

Yarsa could be a plain Placebo or Phoksundo may be the seventh heaven for some; reality bites....!!!



8. Prakash Kham
Is n't it funny that we are more worried about Yarsa rather than the people of Yarsha land. The discourse reflects the write-up by Amartya Sen on 'spotted owl' and 'the bengal tiger', which I would suggest every participants here to go through.

However, thumps up to Dewan Rai, for such a pain-taking notes in Dolpa and leading the discourse.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)