Indigenous Management Strategies and Socioeconomic Impacts of Yartsa Gunbu (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) Harvesting in Nubri and Tsum, Nepal

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HIMALAYA, the Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, ISSN: 2471-3716, Vol: 34, Issue: 1, Page: 7

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Childs, Geoff; Choedup, Namgyal
Ophiocordyceps sinensis; yartsa gunbu; caterpillar fungus; sustainable development; natural resource management; Tibetans; Nepal
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article description
The harvesting and selling of yartsa gunbu (literally “summer grass, winter worm”; Ophiocordyceps sinensis) is contributing to economic and social transformations across the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayan region faster than any development scheme could envision. Meanwhile, the rising demand for the commodity has been linked to violence and environmental degradation, and has generated concerns over resource sustainability. Although good data is emerging on harvesting practices, medical uses, and the booming market for yartsa gunbu, especially in Tibetan areas of China, little systematic research has explored village-level management practices and socioeconomic impacts. This paper seeks to partially fill that void through a case study of the yartsa gunbu harvest in Nubri and Tsum, contiguous valleys in Nepal inhabited by ethnic Tibetans. Using data from household surveys and in-depth interviews, the authors describe the process of gathering and selling yartsa gunbu within the parameters of management practices that combine religious and secular regulations over natural resources. The authors conclude with a discussion of the indigenous management system in relation to sustainable development.