Yarsagumba becomes rare in Manang uplands at elevation of 3,000m

MANANG: Availability of Yarsagumba, the caterpillar fungus, has become rare in uplands of Manang district this year. The fungi were found in abundance in Namke, Bhimtang, Chyakhu, Gumchhang in previous years.

Various herbs found in the mountainous regions have become rare as the gradual climate change has greatly affected the vegetation in higher altitudes, Climate Ecologist Nagendra Bahadur Amatya said.

The herbal fungi were, in the past, found in abundance in all four rural municipalities — Chame, Naraphu, Nashong and Nesyang. It has now become hard to find the caterpillar fungi, especially, in the places including Namkelek, Ponkaralek, Danphelek, Gumchhang and Yakkharka of the latter rural municipality.

Bhola Bhattarai, a researcher at the Environment and Forestry Science Research, said that the vegetation and wildlife both exist in favourable environment, so with the climate change the herbs have changed their habitat.  Ecologists have stressed the need to step up to preserve the herbs.

The Yarsagumba, which was found at an altitude of 3,000 metres (m) above sea level previously, is now rarely found even at 4,000 m.

Around 1,500 to 2,000 people from within and outside the district — Gorkha, Lamjung, Rasuwa, Dhading — make investment in collecting Yarsagumba every year, according to Manang District Forest Office (DFO). Denizens of Manang district along with their children leave home and hotel businesses to collect Yarsagumba, usually, for the whole month of May every year.

According to Annapurna Conservation Area, Manang, the Yarsagumba collectors live in makeshift tents while collecting the herb for which the denizens of the district have to pay Rs 8,000 each while the outsiders are charged with a sum of Rs 12,000.

People risk their lives collecting Yarsagumba as it is valued as one of the most expensive herbal remedy.

A piece of Yarsagumba costs between Rs 500 to 1,000 spontaneously, Gore Gurung, a collector from Kerungja of Gorkha district said. The price of a kilogram of Yarsagumba last year was Rs 25,000 while this year it is expected to be dearer. The DFO informed that it collected the revenue of Rs 9.5 million last year only.

Apart from Yarsagumba, the mountainous district is home to various herbs such as Panchaunle, Nirmasi, Pakhanbhed, Jimbu, Guthi, varieties of mushrooms, wild garlic among others.