Towards improved management of Yarsagumba in Api Nampa Conservation Area

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Yarsagumba (Ophiocordyceps sinensis), a highly prized Himalayan herb, is commonly known as caterpillar fungus and grows naturally in the northern alpine grasslands of Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Tibetan plateau of China within the altitude of 3,000 to 5,000 m. Recognized for its medicinal value, Yarsagumba trade has become one of the major income sources for mountain communities in these countries. This has led to over-harvesting and related environmental degradation in its habitat.

Api Himal

Within the Kailash Sacred Landscape (KSL), Yarsagumba plays an important role as a source of livelihood for remote mountain communities. It has also led to social conflicts, especially in relation to access and management of resources. The pilot area Api Nampa Conservation Area (ANCA) is one of the main Yarsagumba collection areas of Nepal. ANCA has been highly affected by the social and ecological changes due to Yarsagumba collection over the last years. Therefore, the government institutions as well as the communities have shown a great interest to work on national policies as well as on the local level management plans to reduce the negative impacts of Yarsagumba collection and trade.

Awareness raising and focus group discussion with yarsa collectors at Dhaulo Odar

The Kailash team together with the local committees and communities of ANCA organized two trips to the main Yarsagumba collection sites within ANCA - to Byash Village Development Committee (VDC) along the Mahakali River in June 2014 and to Ghusa VDC along the Chamelya River in June 2015 - to assess the situation and local management of the sites, raise awareness and identify relevant stakeholders, and discuss with them about possible solutions. These findings were shared and discussed with stakeholders on district level at the Yarsagumba stakeholder dialogue in May 2015 to agree on a way forward towards a better management of Yarsagumba in ANCA. 

Some immediate results are noted here:

  1. Commitment of the ANCA management council and committees to develop a Yarsagumba Management Plan for ANCA, which provides guidelines for management of the sites. Following aspects were discussed and needs to be further followed up for implementation: camp management, entrance fee and usage of fees, limitation of collection areas, limitation of collection period, and limitation of collectors per site.
  2. Clarification of responsibilities: The VDC conservation committees will play the lead role on local level to raise awareness about the negative impacts of collection of Yarsagumba and to ensure implementation of activities towards improved management.
  3. Immediate actions - Ghusa VDC 

  • Waste management: It was decided the committee members will take charge in different collection sites of Lolu region and conduct a week-long cleaning campaign of the campsites. After this, the waste will have to be managed by respective tents and shop/hotel owners for proper disposal.
  • Firewood: It was agreed that the people would use only dry/older trees from further down of the main campsite.
  • Meetings: Committees to meet along with ANCA officials after the collection season and three months in advance of every collection season to discuss issues and take decisions.