ICIMOD: A stringent policy is required to avoid overharvesting of yartsaguenbub (cordyceps senensis) and environmental degradation while collecting the fungi in the Kailash Sacred Landscape (KSL).

To discuss and deliberate on this issue, government representatives from Nepal, Bhutan, India and China have come together in Paro for a five day workshop on ‘tracking options for sustainable management and trade on yartsaguenbub.

Over the next four days, participants will discuss the legal status and existing policies of cordyceps in each country and the grading system, quality control and value addition of cordyceps.

Although the four KSL countries have been making efforts to introduce better harvesting and management of cordyceps, the policies, rules and regulations for collecting and trade of cordyceps varies among these countries.

According to a press release from International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Nepal has neither a control over the number of collectors nor a proper marketing channel. In India, although collection and trade is prohibited, some level of illegal harvesting exists. The product ultimately reaches China, it being the main market for cordyceps. China is also by far the largest collector of cordyceps.

ICIMOD’s regional programme manager for transboundary landscape and coordinator of KSL conservation and development initiative, Dr Rajan Kotru, said ICIMOD has set a goal where in 20 years time the local community will be protecting and managing the KSL.

Livelihood and eco-system management is key in the KSL on which the highland communities are dependent.  Between 3,000 to 5,000 meters, there is dominance of rangeland, he said.

“We’re struggling to govern the collection and trade of cordyceps in India and Nepal,” he said. “Bhutan has a good experience in governing cordyceps, which is something to be learnt.”

At the opening of the workshop on August 8, agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji said, cordyceps, the highly priced fungi in fact is a miracle crop. Presence of cordyceps is one of the unique characteristics of the Himalayan range.

However, change in market dynamics has resulted in various social and ecological implications in the sacred landscape.

“High income from harvesting cordyceps is diverting attention from traditional farming,” he said. “The huge rush for cordyceps continues to exert pressure on the landscape due to over harvesting.”

While these are some lessons Bhutan learnt, the country has also come a long way on sustainable management practices of collection and trade of cordyceps.

The workshop jointly organised by ICIMOD and department of forest and park services ends on August 12.

By Nirmala Pokhrel, Paro