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Bates College

Publication Date

Spring 2016

Program Name

Nepal: Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples


Being in such a remote location, the Tarap valley in the Dolpa district of Nepal has only recently experienced the influences of a modern, cash-based economy in full force. Historically, the economy of the Dolpo-pa in Dho Tarap was almost entirely rooted in agriculture, animal husbandry, barter, and exchange. While these themes are still incredibly important foundations of the economic practices and systems in the valley, the introduction of Yartsa gumbu, the highly valuable caterpillar fungus used in Chinese medicine, has transformed the local economy of the region and propelled it into the arms of a consumeristoriented and cash-based economy. Prior to the elevation of the cash economy in the region, hard currency in the form of Nepali rupees played a relatively small role. The culture of credit and traditional values were entirely intertwined with the region’s economic systems. Credit in the form of objects, such as barley and livestock, in addition to more abstract forms, such as labor and time, played critical roles in the overall economy of the valley. While this is still true in regards to many of the economic practices in place today, they are now being blended with the elements of a cash-based economy as well.

This study will examine the local economy in respect to the time period before Yartsa gumbu had made a significant impact on the economy in addition to the time period after, with a special focus on the present day. Using an economic anthropological lens, aspects of the economy such as credit culture, gendered spaces within the economy, and the hopes and feelings of the local people about the future will be examined in regards to the ways in which they have changed in response to the effects of Yartsa on the economy. There is no question that Yartsa gumbu has brought a more elevated status to the local economy, which has in turn had effects on the lifestyles, perceptions of wealth, and overall attitudes of the people. The question of whether or not these changes have truly had positive impacts on the economy, however, is still one that is up for debate?


Agricultural and Resource Economics | Anthropology | Civic and Community Engagement | Collective Bargaining | East Asian Languages and Societies | Ethnic Studies | Finance and Financial Management | Labor Relations | Place and Environment | Sales and Merchandising | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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