Season Of Yarsa Rush
Schools in western mountain districts have now closed as students have joined their parents leaving on yarsagumba trips to collect the high value Himalayan herb. This is a burning example of how economic prospects, or a compulsion associated with it, can affect the regular school calendar. We already know that school absenteeism is high in the rural areas as the children of school going age have to attend domestic chores such as cattle herding, collecting green fodder, fetching water or even going out for wage earning menial labour. Moreover, it is hard to stop children and even teachers, from making harvest of this wonder herb that can fetch up to two million rupees a kilogram. Yarsa collection has brought an economic transformation in the lives of some mountain people. This shows that no place in Nepal is poor, we only have to explore and utilise its potential. Remoteness is not always a bane because the harsh life in these parts can be made prosperous through niche possibilities such as tourism, Himalayan medicinal herbs and horticulture. There may still be other treasures waiting to be explored and utilised. Regarding the yarsagumba harvests, the collection trips need to be made more systematic and less risky. We often hear the news reports of deaths and injuries that happen during the yarsa journeys up in the high mountains. Some people fall off the steep cliffs while others fall sick and get stranded after heavy snowfalls. There are also reports of quarrels, physical assaults and theft of the coveted herb.
One pertinent issue can be whether it is necessary to take children along with the parents in the yarsa collection trips so that there will be nobody to attend schools. The collections are carried out on mountains with harsh climatic conditions which can stretch to two or three months. As such, regular classes, periodic tests and crucial concentration on studies will surely be disturbed. It is said that young people are more energetic and agile which are required in yarsa collection adventure. This is the reason the children are encouraged to accompany their senior family members. In addition, the children may also be happy to take this lucrative trip to make some pocket money and assist the family in its economic hardships. It would be pragmatic to make some rules by the concerned schools so that the school children and teachers on yarsa trips do not overstay up in the mountain so as to seriously affect the academic calendar. It is positive that the schools are mulling to adjust the summer or winter vacation with the yarsa collection absenteeism. Come April or May and the whole villages become almost empty as all the able bodied members of the family leave on yarsa trip. Only the women with infants, elderly, weak and sick are the exception. A news report carried by this daily said that villages in northern part of Bajhang district have been virtually deserted and schools have been closed due to the seasonal yarsa rush. The local people say that it is a seasonal opportunity to make a fortune and should be seized.