Bajhang – A dozen public schools in the district have closed for about three months with the school-going children joining their parents and other family members in collecting the prized yarsagumba or the caterpillar fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) in the highland areas.
The Dhanseri forest conservation committee of Surma Rural Municipality had prohibited the collection of yarsagumba in the high-altitude areas in the rural municipality until May 29 due to the shortage of this herb in the forest. However, it lifted the ban on Sunday.
With the lifting of the prohibition on yarsagumba collection, a rush for the collection of this valuable caterpillar fungus has begun and the locals are heading in hordes to the highlands for harvesting this herb with medicinal value.
Kalak Bohora, the president of a community organisation at local Daulichaur, said that schools have to close as almost all people in the villages, who can walk and work including the school-going kids, go to the alpine highlands to collect yarsagumba.
"We have to virtually close the schools for almost about three months in the yarsagumba collection season because this is the time to earn money for the locals here, collecting yarsagumba and selling it," he said.
People from other villages and towns in Bajhang district also come to the Dhanseri community forest highlands for collecting yarsagumba, which is the main source of income.
But the shortage of yarsagumba this time compared to the past has caused a bit of a concern among the locals.
"In the past, four people of a single family used to collect up to four kilogrammes of yarsagumba in one season. But the yarsagumba has been decreasing these days. The main source of income of the people of this area is yarsagumba, medicinal herbs and sheep rearing," said Ramesh Bohara, a resident of Surma rural municipality.
According to Ram Bahadur Bohara, a resident of Saipal rural municipality, many people gave up sheep rearing to yarsagumba collection which was lucrative business in the past. But they are now worried with the diminishing yarsagumba.
Most schools in Surma rural municipality, Talkot rural municipality, Saipal rural municipality and Bungal Municipality are closed during the three months with the start of the yarsagumba collection season.