Bhutan has many tribes of highlanders living at an altitude of about 5000ft above the sea level especially in the eastern and northern part of the country. Rearing yaks and dairy produce were their main source of livelihood till a few years ago.
Commercialisation of cordyceps sinesis, a kind of fungus with medical values has uplifted their standard of living and taken their social status to an entirely different level. They no more have to depend on barter system, though it is still prevalent.
People willing to go for collection into higher mountains have to get themselves registered. They are issued with a month’s permit stating they are legal and thereby allowed to harvest. They earn lakhs through auctions organised by the government.
These people risk their lives and go to collect cordyceps leaving behind the young and old ones at home. Some even lock their houses for months as they go for collection.
It is a great opportunity for them to make extra income apart from the meagre amount of potter pony they make, ferrying the locals and tourists.
Unfortunately for the people of Laya, this year they are confined at home. The holdup in the resurveying of land in the gewogs delayed their collection procedure.
The locals are worried because the peak season might end even before they start their collection.