Regional Workshop on ‘Tracking options for sustainable management and trade on Yarsagumba in the Kailash Landscape”

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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.

Objectives

  • Exchange knowledge and experience on sustainable Yarsagumba collection and trade with specific reference to policies, legal status, involvement of stakeholders in each country;

  1. What is the legal status in each country?
  2. What policies exist on Yarsagumba collection and trade in each country?
  3. What international policies exist (CBD, ABS, etc) that are relevant?
  4. What are experiences of grading, quality control, and value-addition of Yarsagumba and development of other high-value medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) through bioprospecting in Bhutan?

  • Exchange lessons on best practices to develop national or local level management plans (area specific conservation, management, and marketing);

  1. What role does the state play? Where should it intervene more and how is it possible?
  2. What role shall the local institutions/communities play?
  3. What are the lessons learnt from Bhutanese experience in cordyceps market interventions by facilitating auctioning events where buyers and sellers meet at a single platform?

  • Facilitate formation of informal networks of key people involved in cordyceps management and trade in the region.

Target Audience

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).

Expected outcome 

  • Policy recommendations for each member country on improved management of Yarsagumba
  • Documentation of best practices (Yarsagumba management, access and benefits, markets) at local level
  • Establishment of informal network of key persons working on cordyceps in the region
  • Identify next steps and actions on Yartsagumba management and trade by the KSL member countries

Video of Yarsagumba (Cordyceps sinensis)