Schools closed as yarsa picking season begins

Bajura, May 25

A large number of schools in the mountainous districts have pulled their shutters after students and teachers ascended to the highlands to pick medicinal herb yarsa.

With the beginning of the yarsa picking season, villages in Bajhang and upper Dolpa wear a deserted look. More than 50 schools in Bajhang have been closed for three months. Normally,  yarsa is picked from mid-April to mid-July. Schools located in the northern belt of the district including Saipal, Talkot, Surma, Masta, among other rural municipalities, have been closed.

“As the villagers leave for the highlands to collect yarsa, along with their children, we have closed the school for three months,” said Ujjwal Bohara, a teacher at Saipal Secondary School.

According to him, the schools in the mountainous districts remain closed for three months during yarsa collecting season and for four months from November to February every year due to cold. Around 8,000 students have been deprived of education due to the closure of schools.

Saipal Rural Municipality Chair Dabal Rokaya said schools remained closed since students appeared in the final examinations in April. He said almost all houses at Saipal, Talkot, Surma, Masta rural municipalities were unattended as all family members had gone to collect yarsa.

Jaya Bahadur Singh of Saipal said all his family members, including third grader daughter and 66-year-old mother, were going to the highlands to collect yarsa.

He said they expected to collect yarsa worth at least Rs 4,00,000 this season. “A kilo of yarsa costs Rs 4,000,000, but we have to sell it for Rs 2,500,000 to Rs 3,000,000 to the contractors, who come from Tibet. However, the income is satisfactory,” said Singh.

The rare medicinal herb is available at or above the altitude of 4,000 metres from the sea level. People from adjoining districts, including Bajura, Baitadi, Humla, Darchula and Achham approach Bajhang district while around 30,000 people from Dang, Surkhet, Rukum, Rolpa, Kathmandu, India and China also arrive in the mountainous district each season to collect yarsa. The main income generating source of the people living in the area is yarsa.

Meanwhile, scores of schools and villages of Dolpa also wear a deserted look as all the parents, teachers and students have ascended to the Patan area of Upper Dolpa to collect yarsa.

“Though the schools were directed to run classes smoothly, we had no option but to close the school as all the students left for the highlands,” said District Education Development and Coordination Unit Chief Dol Raj Kafle. People from Jajarkot, Rukum and Dolpa also go to the Upper Patan area to pick yarsha.

The authority has permitted people to pick yarsa in the Shey Phoksundo National Park area since May 15 while other areas have been opened for yarsa picking from May 24. District Forest Office, Bajhang, has collected Rs 10 million revenue so far by granting people permission to pick the medicinal herb.

Last year, the office had collected Rs 6 million revenue. A yarsa picker has to pay Rs 25,000 revenue while taking a kg yarsha out of the district, as per Gajadhar Joshi of the office.

Meanwhile, Mugamkarmarong Rural Municipality -2 Chair Karma Lama said Rs 6.1 million was collected as revenue from yarsa pickers this season so far.