Yarcha trade helping highland economy

  • Many households in districts like Dolpa are making decent income by selling precious caterpillar fungi
Yarcha trade helping highland economy

Jul 30, 2014-

Trade of Yarchagumba, a caterpillar fungus highly valued for its medicinal properties, has emerged as the second largest contributor to the household economy after farming in Dolpa and its adjoining districts.  

Harvesting of Yarchagumba during the months between May and July in high alpine meadows is contributing 21.2 and 53.3 percent to total household income and total cash income for mountainous communities living in the highlands of Dolpa, Rukum and Jajarkot districts, according to the findings of a paper on ‘Economic contribution of Chinese caterpillar fungus to the livelihoods of mountain communities in Nepal’ that was jointly published by Uttam Babu Shrestha and Kamaljit Bawa in an international leading journal, Biological Conservation, on Tuesday.

The study conducted between May and July 2011 in Dolpa had interviewed 216 harvesters who came to Dolpa to collect Yarchagumba. The harvesters were divided into three income groups--- poorest, poor and least poor-- for the study. It was found that among the poorest group, the contribution of Yarchagumba income during summer season makes up to 72 percent (Rs 25,444), while income from farming was only Rs 1,890.  

“People of the lowest income quartile obtain larger proportion of their income from Yarcha because they don’t have other significant means of income such as farm and off-far sources,” said Shrestha, the Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow in University of Southern Queensland, Australia.

The contribution of caterpillar fungus income to the the total household income decreases as the household income increases, making its contribution highest for the poorest households, he added.

The study was conducted in Dolpa district in the Mid-Western Region of the country, as it is regarded a major warehouse of caterpillar fungus in Nepal, contributing 40 percent of total supply in 2011 in Nepal. While these species are found in 27 northern districts of Nepal, it is widely collected from only seven districts.

While Yarchagumba harvesting is significantly contributing in improving the lives of rural people with flow of cash during summer season, excessive harvesting to meet the increasing demand in the international market is threatening the livelihood of the dependent families, owing to habitat degradation at a rapid rate.

“The harvesting pressure is so intense that there is no single inch of habitat left untouched by the harvesters by the end of the harvesting season,” Shrestha said. The study further found that the per capita harvesting pressure on this resource in Nepal is higher than that of China and Bhutan, other range countries for Yarchagumba.

Published: 31-07-2014 09:09

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