Collection of medicinal herbs begins next week in the mountains of Naro gewog, Thimphu that lies above 3000 meters above sea level.

The highlanders are happy with a new asset in the gewog that would make the exercise an easy affair.

Naro gewog now has a proper drying place for the herbs they collect from the mountains. The Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay inaugurated the one-storey structure during his visit to the gewog centre on July 22.

The highlanders can’t use it yet. They will have to wait for another year to use the facility that cost Nu 1 million and a year to build. It runs on electricity and the gewog’s power derived from solar panels is not enough.

But everyone gathered at the meeting with the Prime Minister seemed happy with the facility.

A highlander, Jigme, said that collection of herbs is one of the main activities that the highlanders rely on for their livelihood.

“Livestock rearing is plagued with chronic diseases like guyum, infection of the brain, and wild predator attacks,” he said.

“This drying facility is going to save us a lot of hardship and time,” he said. “Herb collection is going to be more tempting.”

Naro Mangmi Kinga Thinley said that the gewog is expected to connect to grid electricity by next year.

“We’ve heard Bhutan Power Corporation tender out in August the works to connect the gewog centre with electricity,” he said.

In absence of a drying facility in the gewog, most highlanders have to dry their herbs either in the caves or in tarpaulin tents.

“If it rains continuously, we risk rotting the herbs, so we have to take them to the institute at Kawajangsa in Thimphu,” Mangmi Kinga Thinley said. “The wet ones don’t fetch a good price.”

Price varies for different varieties. The highlanders earn between Nu 100 and Nu 700 a kilogramme of herb.

The gewog has a group that collects herbs and everyone in the gewog is a member of the group. They go to collect the herbs after the Drungtshos from the National Institute of Traditional Medicine place their demands.

The season to collect the herbs begins in August and ends in mid-September.

The highlanders earn between Nu 40,000 and Nu 100,000 a year selling the herbs to the National Institute of Traditional Medicine.

The highlanders collect mostly Putishing (Picorrhiza kurroa), Papaveraceae varieties locally called ud-pal, Caprifoliaceae or pangpoe, Plantaginaceae or Honglen, and wangle, among others.

Naro gewog has about 27 species of medicinal herbs.

Tshering Palden