Communities across the Mahakali agree on the sustainable management of yartsa gunbu

Pradyumna J.B. Rana
Sunayana Basnet

Although yartsa gunbu – the “caterpillar fungus” – is one of the most socioeconomically important species in the Kailash Sacred Landscape (KSL), the future viability of this high-value medicinal plant is being threatened by unsustainable practices. Accordingly, communities and local authorities in India and Nepal have recently signed a declaration to commit to sustainable yartsa gunbu harvesting and management. This new collaboration will contribute to efforts by the Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI) to address critical issues concerning biodiversity management in the cross-border area of KSL-Nepal and India.

Rampant collection of fuelwood has exacerbated rapid deforestation, affecting availability of yartsa gunbu (Photo: Jitendra Raj Bajracharya, ICIMOD)

The community-level cross-border declaration was signed by participants of a recent workshop held near the India–Nepal border in Darchula, Nepal, from 15 to 17 December 2018. The workshop – organized by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the Research Centre for Applied Science and Technology (RECAST) – brought together communities and local administrative authorities of Darchula District, Nepal, and Dharchula block of Pithoragarh District, India, in an effort to address critical issues concerning biodiversity management in general and yartsa gunbu in particular. 

During the event, the participants gained an understanding of the status of and trends in yartsa gunbu management, including legal provisions, in India and Nepal. In addition, they identified potential solutions for pressing issues relating to yartsa gunbu management and discussed ways to curb the illegal trade of medicinal plants and wildlife. 

Women in search of yartsa gunbu (Photo: Jitendra Raj Bajracharya, ICIMOD)

Through the declaration, the workshop participants endorsed the importance of sustainable harvesting in improving the management of yartsa gunbu and its ecosystem in the KSL through coordination with communities across the border. The participants also pledged to raise awareness and make efforts on issues regarding waste management, grazing, and deforestation in and around yartsa gunbu collection sites. 

Community members and local authorities of high-altitude districts in KSL-Nepal, along with district-, state-, and central-level authorities, also participated in the workshop, including representatives from the Government of Nepal’s Ministry of Forests and Environment, Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Api Nampa Conservation Area, and Divisional Forest Offices; representatives from the Government of India’s District Forest Office – Pithoragarh, G.B. Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment and Sustainable Development (GBPNIHESD), and Wildlife Institute of India; and the Central Himalayan Environment Association (CHEA), India.

Competing with livestock – yartsa gunbu collection sites and grazing lands overlap, adversely affecting the availability of yartsa gunbu (Photo: Pradyumna JB Rana, ICIMOD)