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Managing The Harvest Of Himalayan Viagra 2014-11-03
In two tiny rural villages, Nubri and Tsum, located in the Himalayan foothills near Nepal and Tibet, life is typically slow. Schools, roads and medical institutions are virtually non-existent.
Consequently, the cash economy is not booming, and farming and logging are major sources of income.
One of the crops in the region is Yartsa gunbu. It was not planted by the locals. Rather, it occurs when a fungus infects the bodies of ghost-moth caterpillars. In the spring, spores from the fungus emerge from the caterpillar's dead bodies and spring up in the local pastures.
In some Chinese markets, the natural Viagra sells for more per ounce than gold.
In a new study, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that the two communities, using existing religious and cultural traditions, were able to implement a successful system for the sustainable harvest of the natural resource, reports Science Daily.
"There's this mistaken notion that indigenous people are incapable of solving complicated problems on their own," said study co-author Geoff Childs, an associate professor of anthropology at Washington University. "These communities show that people can be incredibly resourceful when it's necessary to preserve their livelihoods."
Speculators want to cash-in on the fungus similar to the American gold rush. This had led to allegations of graft and bribery among community leaders.
There is also a concern that over-harvesting will damage the ecosystem and effect Yartsa gunbu production.
The sustainable management plan restricts harvest to members of local households, harvesters are required to register with their local villages and pay a small tax and penalties are issued for those caught harvesting outside of the community.
"In the case of Nubri and Tsum, management practices that were devised independent of state interference may prove to be sustainable over the long-run," Childs said. "Although many observers have called for more government intervention in the harvesting and sale of Yartsa gunbu, our research demonstrates that, at least in some communities, it is better to allow locals to manage the resource and reap the benefits on their own terms."
The results were published in Himalaya, The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies.