JUMLA, May 23: Hari Bahadur BK of Jumla’s Patarasi Rural Municipality is currently busy picking yarsagumba in Patan area in the district’s uplands. In fact, majority of the youths in the Karnali region are doing the same. Lack of employment opportunities has attracted many people here into the lucrative yarsagumba trade.
Yarsagumba is a fungus prized for its purported aphrodisiac properties and fetches good price in the international market.
BK has been picking yarsagumba for the past several years. After all these years, the fungus has brought relative prosperity to his family. “If I work hard for two months during the yarsagumba harvesting season, I don’t need to work for the rest of the year,” he shared.
Most of the locals of Patarasi share similar stories. Therefore, during the yarsagumba picking season, all family members -- from toddlers to the elderly -- head for the uplands. The right time to harvest yarsagumba is just before the monsoon.
During this time, the uplands of Jumla, Mugu and Dolpa are teeming with locals. Villages in Patarasi, Guthichaur, Tatopani, Sijana, Kanakasundari, Tila and Chandranath Municipality of Jumla are almost empty.
Over 800 children and youths from Patarasi village are now picking the fungus in the Patan area. The settlement of almost 400 households is almost deserted. Schools are closed as both the teachers and students are busy picking yarsagumba.
“Yarsagumba is a very good source of income for the villagers so no one can afford to miss the opportunity,” said Gopal Kami, one of the locals. “Again, working in high-altitude is full of risks and some people even die of cold and altitude sickness, but the work is highly rewarding.”
Patarasi Rural Municipality’s Chairman Lachhiman Bohara said his office plans to introduce various income-generating programmes at the local level so that the locals do not have to risk their lives and children do not have to miss their school picking yarsagumba in the highlands.