Photo Credit: Yeshey Dorji

Highlanders worried about decrease in quantity and quality of cordyceps every year

Layaps and Lunaps under Gasa depends on cordyceps as their main source of income, and they are now worried as there is decline in both the quantity and quality of cordyceps. One contributing factor for the decline could be a decrease in rainfall, they shared.

In the past, they used to earn a minimum amount of Nu 50,000 to Nu 300,000, but the situation has changed now wherein they started experiencing decrease in quantity, which impacts their income generation. Every year 300 to 600 people go to collect the cordyceps.

Few decades ago, the highlanders had difficult time with no source of income, however, the Fourth Druk Gyalpo came to their rescue, whereby His Majesty granted a Kidu for income generation through cordyceps collection in 2004.

Since then the highlanders started living a better life, which enabled the four gewogs under Gasa to stand at the same level of prosperity.

Laya Gup Tshewang who is also the Dzongkhag Thrizin shared that the quantity of the cordyceps has dropped by 40 percent in past one decade, but they are not sure on the reasons why it has dropped. 

Nevertheless, he said, “In general, climate change is taking place. People feel that decease in cordyceps is due to climate change as they can see certain changes in the weather pattern. Today, the rainfall and snowfall patterns keep fluctuating.”

The highlanders are concerned about the impact of climate change in the next 10 years. They fear losing the special gift from His Majesty, which is their steady source of income generation.

“We do not have plans in finding an alternative way to income generation for now. Even if we have, it will be challenging for us to implement given geological terrain of the gewog. But, we are looking forward in promoting tourism in our gewogs,” the Laya Gup said.

Horses are the means of transportation in the rugged mountain terrain, and they hope to earn a good amount from their horses during the tourist season. They are hopeful of keeping this source of income alive, he added.

Marketing vegetables would be other alternative given the opportunity. In the past, they used to transport vegetables all the way from Punakha. Now, almost 80 percent of the vegetables are being harvested using greenhouses in the highland.

However, due to inaccessibility of road, they are not able to market their farm produce, which is why the vegetables are harvested just for self-consumption, he added.

He said, “Given the opportunity, we have the potential in making a living through marketing vegetables like any other farmers in the country. All we need is support. Dzongkhag officials can play a role in making this happen.”

62-year-old Ap Tsheri shared that every year, the quantity and quality of cordyceps is declining. This could be because of less rainfall in recent years.

“We do not find cordyceps anymore in places where we used to find them in the past. This is an indirect threat to our living, and we are worried of how things will turn-out in future.”

Zam, 38, said that she is worried about the situation getting worse in future. In the past, her family used to earn Nu 150,000 (minimum) but the amount has deceased drastically, bringing it to a mere Nu 50,000.

“Two members from our family used to go for cordyceps collection in the past, but now, only one goes because it is of no use when the quantity and quality has decreased. Sometimes, we don’t even get a single Cordycep in a day. It’s discouraging, and we hope the situation would get better in future,” she added.

Similarly, many other highlanders have shared the same concern over the matter. They are worried about the situation, yet they have a hope that the situation would improve in future.

If this continues, the issue on the rural-urban migration, and Gungtong might increase, as they would move out so as to make a better living, the highlanders added.

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