High altitude organic gold: the production network for Ophiocordyceps sinensis from far-western Nepal

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Ethnopharmacological relevance Ophiocordyceps sinensis (Berk.) G.H.Sung, J.M.Sung, Hywel-Jones & Spatafora, a high altitude Himalayan fungus-caterpillar product found in alpine meadows in China, Bhutan, Nepal, and India, has been used in the Traditional Chinese Medicine system for over 2000 years. Heightened demand in China over the past 15 years, coupled with limited production, has led to a price hike and increased economic importance of harvests to rural households throughout the species’ range. There is, however, limited knowledge on the actors and profit distribution in the O. sinensis production network, especially from the distribution areas on the southern flanks of the Himalayas. Filling in this knowledge gap is essential to the identification and design of public interventions. Aim of the study To describe and quantify the O. sinensis production network originating from Darchula District in far-western Nepal. Materials and Methods Data was collected, for fiscal year 2014-15, in spring and summer 2016 using standardized collector (n=56) and trader (n=45) questionnaires in Darchula District, and central wholesaler (n=9) questionnaires in cities of Nepal. All questionnaires contained quantitative and qualitative components focusing on key elements of the production network, i.e. value creation, enhancement, and capture; and network and territorial embeddedness. Results Trade is sustained and significant even at the margins of the distributional range, with 384.1 kg of O. sinensis harvested in and traded from Darchula District in 2014-15, having a collector value of approximately USD 4.7 million and constituting the dominant household-level source of income for collectors. The functioning production network is characterised by conflicts in relation to value creation, a high share of value capture by collectors, limited value enhancement, and a high degree of network and territorial embeddedness. Conclusions O. sinensis income is of major economic importance for rural households at the margin of its distribution range in Nepal. Production networks operated by informal actors establishing trust-based relationships allow responses to cross-border market signals, enabling the flow of rural and remote environmental resources to urban centres of demand. There is scope for public interventions, e.g. to determine the drivers of demand.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Ethnopharmacology
Pages (from-to)59-68
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2018

ID: 191215992