Yarsagumba (Cordyceps sinensis, known as Yartsa Goenbub in Bhutan), a highly prized Himalayan herb, is a complex of the parasitic fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) and ghost moth caterpillar (Thitarodes spp.). The parasitic fungus 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 (Buenz et al. 2005). Recognized for its medicinal value, cordyceps trade has become one of the major income sources for mountain communities in these countries. This has led to overharvesting and related environmental degradation in its habitat. Although national governments are making efforts to introduce better harvesting and management practices, policies and regulations for collection and trade of cordyceps differ from country to country.
Within the Kailash Sacred Landscape (KSL), Yarsagumba plays an important role as a source of livelihood for remote mountain people. It is also related to social conflicts, especially in relation to access and management of resources. Therefore, the government institutions as well as the communities have a great interest to work on national policies as well as on the local level management plans to reduce the negative impacts of cordyceps collection and trade.
The national workshop on conservation and management of Yarsagumba organized by the government of Nepal in 2014 generated some information on production, trends, and some customary and statuary rights in access and benefits from this resource. What transpired clearly from the workshop was the need for detailed understanding on harvesting and utilization techniques; habitat management; market information, value addition, and benefit sharing; and transboundary cooperation for trade and strengthening horizontal and vertical linkages (community control, market linkage). These findings have a regional/transboundary interface and requires cooperative learning and solutions. The sustainable collection and trade of Yarsagumba is a transboundary issue that requires regional effort and cooperation to ensure its sustainable management.
Therefore, the planned regional workshop is expected to deliberate issues around policies and practices that shall facilitate exchange of knowledge and experiences in cordyceps management. In addition, it would contribute to ICIMOD’s Transboundary Landscape outcome of ‘improved cooperation among regional member countries for sustainable and inclusive ecosystem management for enhanced and equitable livelihood benefits’. In particular, this activity is related to several outputs under the KSLCDI such as the innovative livelihoods for strengthening value chains for higher income for farmers, ecosystem management for sustaining services though preparation of area-specific conservation, etc.
The workshop is being held in Paro, Bhutan, so that participants can witness the annual Yarsagumba auction, which will be organized by the government of Bhutan on 9 and 10 August 2015. This is an event in which all registered collectors and traders come together for transparent Yarsagumba trading. The participants will also have opportunity to look at some cordyceps value addition facilities, and understand overall approach adopted by Bhutan in managing high value non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for livelihood co-benefits.
Participants comprise representatives from the Ministries, Department of Forest, Department of Protected Areas, local government officials including community leaders of park management councils, and NTFP Associations from the KSLCDI member countries, and workshop organizers (Bhutan and ICIMOD).
Video of Yarsagumba (Cordyceps sinensis)