DARCHULA, June 29: Collecting yarshagumba (a caterpillar fungus) is a major income source for the people of the high hills in western Nepal. In Darchula, the locals of five rural municipalities are fully dependent on yarsha collection for their living. Not only men and women but also school children and sometimes even pregnant women make it to the yarsha pockets in the mountainous zones for collecting yarsha. But this risky trip is gradually turning a costly deal for them. While the yarsha collectors have to devote enough time and resources for over a month-long trip, very low production of yarsha in these pockets has left them greatly disappointed.
Compared to the earlier years, the later years have become less fruitful, the collectors lament. This year, it was even worse, according to the locals of Darchula, who have just returned from the trip. Even the most fertile land for yarsha Byas, Naugad, Marma and Duhu have left them disheartened.
"Earlier we would make around Rs 100,000 to 200,000. But this time, so few yarsha have been collected that it is not going to cross even a few thousands rupees," said Harak Singh Budhathoki of Byas Rural Municipality. "To and fro, we have to spend a lot. May be even that investment won't be covered."
According to Budhathoki, the production of yarsha seems to have reduced by half. And in the days to come, that might go even worse.
Stating that the regular collection of yarsha has affected its production, yarsha collectors had long been demanding revision in its harvest. Instead of once a year, there needs to be a gap, they suggested. Also due to security reasons, yarsha collection was restricted at some places in the past. However, enough efforts have not been made for the conservation of yarsha pockets.
"The management committee had once talked about putting a break to the journey. But for many it is a matter of earning daily bread. What we earn from the transaction keeps us alive for several months," said Budhathoki, adding that the lack of earning from the trip means a direct challenge to their survival.
Another yarsha collector from Darchula Binash Singh Budhathoki put the blame on the climate change for low yarsha production. The mountains which needed to be filled with snow remain naked these days. The climate is changing. And that has affected the production of plants and yarsha, he noted. "I would collect 40 to 50 yarsha a day in the past. Now, finding even 10 of them in the whole day is difficult," he said.