The legalization of cordyceps collection in 2003 has become a game changer for the people of Laya.
This year, Laya saw a bumper cordyceps harvest. A total of 494 collectors collected 158.82kg of cordyceps while the government collected royalty of Nu 1,334,121.6 from the sales. Last year, 383 Layaps collected 121.68kg of cordyceps and paid royalty of Nu 1,004,182.62. 2012 saw a collection of just 18kg with royalty of Nu 126,000 paid.
Although Layaps rear yaks and horses as an alternative source of income, only about one fourth of the households have yaks. Cordyceps collection has been the major source of income since 2003. It has improved the people’s livelihood drastically.
Dorji Wangchuk, an 18-year old from Tongra chiwog, said that last year he could earn only Nu 80,000 but this year he hit a jackpot of Nu 400,000. “This year we saw a better harvest and good collection unlike the previous year,” he said.
Dorji Wangchuk along with his parents went for the collection and with the money earned bought groceries. The remaining was deposited in the bank.
Twenty one-year old Sonam Phuntsho started collecting cordyceps at the age of 19. He and his two brothers have permits to collect cordyceps and managed to earn Nu 150,000 while last year they earned Nu 80,000.
Pasang Namgay, 20, and a class V drop out from Neylu said that in a span of a month they are able to collect 1,000 to 1,500 pieces of cordyceps. “Had it not been for poor visibility, we would be able to collect more.”From every household, three people are permitted to collect cordyceps.
Namgay, Park Manager with Jigme Dorji National Park, said that cordyceps collection is the main source of income for the Layaps. “This year we saw increase in the quantity of cordyceps collected. Every four years there is a bumper harvest, however, it depends on the area where the cordyceps are growing,” he said.
Collectors are not restricted on the collection of cordyceps but they do have a time limit of a month. On arrival from the collection, the collectors have to declare the cordyceps to the nearest forest office and then they are issued a certificate of origin which gives them permission to take part in the auction. A royalty of Nu 500 is collected from each collector and an additional Nu 10 as permit fee. Only those with the permits are allowed to collect cordyceps and if caught red-handed without the permit, they have to pay a fine of Nu 200 per cordycep.
Shingchenla, Langtenphu, Biga, Ngarithang, Memmary, Redupzhi, Sumchuphu are most visited for cordyceps collection.
However, Shingchenla, a day-long walk from Laya is the most popular place for collectors. There are 246 households in Laya with five chiwogs.
Chencho Dema from Laya