By Hari Krishna Aidi,Mugu, May 25: Schools in the northern part of Mugu district are closed as students and parents have headed to the highlands for the annual collection of Yarsagumba, highly prized caterpillar fungi for their medicinal value.
Schools in Mugam Karmarong Rural Municipality have been shut for the collection of Yarsagumba (Cordyceps sinesis), which serves as a vital source of income for the local community.
Students, accompanied by their parents, have started to travel in hordes to collect Yarsagumba in regions 4,000 metres above the sea level. Pasang Lama, principal of Janajagaran Basic School, said the main source of income of the people in the region is Yarsagumba.
As all students go to high pastures to harvest the world’s most expensive herb from mid-May to mid-June, schools in the region are usually closed during the season, he added.
People of all ages of the municipality have journeyed to highlands of Sanokoiki, Thulokoiki, Charku, Hangdang, Cheptu, Roman Patan, Kele Lek, Chuldur, Tending, Yamjama and community forest of Karmarong Rural Municipality to harvest Yarchagumba.
Sonam Pajing Tamang, a local, said Yarchagumba stands as the primary source of income for the community. So collecting the herb is a once-in-a-year opportunity to earn money to cover all household and education expenses.
By picking Yarsagumba, a person can generate significant earnings, ranging from Rs. 100,000 to 200,000, he added. Annually, Yarsa pickers collect around 180 kilograms of Yarsagumba from the community forests of Mugu and Dolfu, said Tamang.
Local Yarsagumba trader Urgin Lama said the price of good quality Yarchagumba ranges from Rs. 400 to 500 per piece. Prices vary between Rs. 1.6 million to Rs. 1.8 million per kilogram of Yarsagumba, he added.
Chairman of the rural municipality Chhiring Kyapne Lama said to facilitate smooth collection of Yarchagumba, the municipality has announced monsoon vacation from May 21-June 24 in Buddha Namuna Secondary School, Mangri, Nepal Rastriya Basic School, Chhail, Shree Nepal Rastriya Basic School Pulu, Shree Ananda Basic School, Chimatt, and Janakalyan Basic School, Mah, as per the education guidelines of the municipality.
In the same way, the students of remaining 10 schools have also journeyed to highlands to pick Yarsagumba, only the early childhood development classes are being run in these schools, said Lama.
All schools in the area would start conducting classes after the picking season is over, he added. The Mugam Karmarong Rural Municipality has implemented specific procedures for Yarsagumba collection. The municipality has been collecting Rs. 2,000 as revenue from locals of the district and Rs. 2,500 from outsiders.
As per the municipality's records, approximately 5,000 to 6,000 herb pickers visit the community forests of Mugu and Dolfu annually to collect Yarsagumba. This medicinal fungus is used to cure anemia, chest and lung infections, tuberculosis, Hepatitis B and kidney and liver diseases.