Herbs principal source of income for Rukum localsCollecting herbs has become a major source of income for locals of 13 village development committees in upper Rukum. Farming is unproductive in Rukum, and the people rely on herbs for their livelihood.
Collecting herbs has become a major source of income for locals of 13 village development committees in upper Rukum. Farming is unproductive in Rukum, and the people rely on herbs for their livelihood.
Yarsagumba, popularly known as Himalayan Viagra, is the major herb collected by locals in the highlands of Rukum. People stay home for only two months and spend the rest of the year travelling in the highlands to search for yarsagumba.
The yarsagumba picking season lasts till the end of June when they return to their homes. Barely a week later, they set out again climbing to the mountain regions in search of other herbs like katuki, bhutle, orchid, red mushroom and others. In the summer, they dig atis and chhikum roots; and in the winter, they dig sarkeli roots.
“Many families go to collect herbs by turns,” said Karma Shahi Gharti, a local. “Families in these remote areas eke out a living by collecting medicinal plants.”
Collecting herbs has allowed locals to enjoy a comparatively high standard of living because the plants are traded for a lot of money. As a result, many have purchased houses and land at the district headquarters.
Normally, a family earns Rs40,000 to Rs700,000 from yarsagumba and Rs200,000 from other herbs annually.
Yarsagumba fetches Rs2 million to Rs2.2 million per kg. Last year, it was traded at Rs2.2 million. Jangala, Gurahang, Bhitriban and Pupal of Maikot are known for producing high quality yarsagumba.
A dozen VDCs in eastern Rukum have fertile land where herbs are grown. “Locals in the northern and eastern regions are seeing a rise in their economic status because of the herbs,” said Jagannath Prasad Jaiswal, district forest officer. “The income is enough for their living expenses and buy property and educate their children.” Rukum, the largest exporter of herbs in Rapti zone, exports around 25 tonnes of various herbs, said the District Forest Office.
Last year Rukum exported 28 kg of yarsagumba, 11,087 kg of katu, 5,600 kg of pakhanbed, 1,700 kg of sughandhawala, 2,000 kg of kaladana, 4,500 kg of satuwa, 47,600 kg of pashanved and 553 kg of chiraito.
The government collects Rs2 million to Rs2.5 million annually in taxes on herbs.