Hunt for coveted Yarshagumba begins in Darchula area

Rabi Dhami

Khalanga (Darchula), June 3:

Around 20,000 villagers from the northern part of the district have set out for a journey of the high mountains (lek) for collecting Yarshagumba, a rare herb, which fetches a good price.

Yarshagumba plucking season lasts from mid-May till mid-July. People including children temporarily migrate to higher hills to collect the herb. They carry with them all required rations and luggage for two entire months. Karabir Manyal, one of the many travellers, is all set to go to the Api and Nampa mountains. He could cover the entire year’s household expenses last year from the sale of the herbs that he had collected last year. He owns a small teashop in Khalanga, headquarter of the district. His wife and children take charge of the shop when he sets out in search of the secreted treasure of Yarshagumba. After a week’s walk comes the site. However, it takes great perseverance and patience to find even a single piece of Yarshagumba.

He told this daily that he fasted for a month, worshipped Shiva-Parbati and asked them to help him overcome the difficulties. Experienced and cautious, Manyal said collecting yarshagumba in high hills involves high risks. Wafting aroma from some flowers in the region can be poisonous that can immediately make you unconscious. Manyal warns that going alone to these sites can cost your life. Dhanshera, Shardagi, Chaimatela and Lola (lek) high lands are major places where yarshagumba is found. People mostly from Ghusha, Khandeshwari, Byansh, Rapla, Hikila, Sunesh, Sitola and Eyarkot VDCs go to these higher slopes of the mountains to collect the herb. Schools in Duhu and Marma region remain closed during the plucking season. Prem Singh Badal, from Hikila VDC said most students along with their parents, or even on their own go to mountain ridges, for fun as well as a means to earn something.

It is speculated that about five quintals of Yarshagumba is collected and marketed illegally every year in Darchula district alone. Although yarshagumba is the main source of income of the people in the northern part of the district, government has been losing millions of rupees in lost revenues every year due to the illegal trade. The forest office here accepted its failure, attributing it to the lack of sources. One official said, “No one has so far taken permission from the district office for collecting Yarshagumba.” The government has fixed Rs 20,000 revenue per kg. According to informed people, it fetches Rs 80,000 per kg in the place of collection, Rs 1,00,000 per kg in Khalanga and Rs 1,30,000 per kg in the markets of Tibet.

Yarshagumba is illegally transported to Tibet through Taklakot. Local people said that smugglers make Taklakot their residence before the collection season begins. Since the security force has moved away from Byansh region five years ago, smuggling has become hassle-free. Amba Datta Panta, president of Darchula Chamber of Commerce, opined that the government should train local people on how to collect Yarshagumba. “Most collectors in the district have no idea about its utility. If we educate them, it can contribute to our economy considerably,” he said.