Shae Frydenlund: The Yarsagumba Effect

Shae is a recent graduate of Colgate University. She is currently studying the world medicinal plant trade in various countries around the world.

or Chongcao in Chinese, has become an economic tour-de-force in the
Tibetan prefectures of western China, where entire populations derive
income exclusively from fungus collection and sales.  As Tibetan nomads
are being resettled into permanent concrete dwellings, they sell their
yaks and flocks, which have been their only source of income for
generations.  The government provides no job training, and the one-time
stipend is quickly spent.  Therefore, Tibetans rely on Yartsagumba for
cash flow; it is estimated that over 90% of individuals in Litang
County, Sichuan, and 80% of individuals in Naqu County, TAR, earn 100%
of household income from Yarsagumba. Nobody can say exactly how much
Yarsagumba is collected every year, nor how much is purchased. 
Obviously, this presents an enormous concern for the natural environment
in addition to the Tibetan peoples.  If the supply is exhausted, there
is no economic future for impoverished, formerly nomadic, communities.

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