August15-16, Thimphu: The fourth annual mushroom festival was held in Pehizhi Goenpa, showcasing the tradition and culture of the Geney geog and promoting conservation and sustainable harvesting and marketing of the mushroom. The opening of the festival was graced by Director General, BAFRA and senior officials from Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF), Thimphu Dzongkhag, geog administration, Tourism Council of Bhutan, tourists, students and Geney people.
The festival was organised by the community of Geney geog and National Mushroom Centre to preserve and promote the culture and tradition as well as to improve the livelihood of the community. The event was first organised as per the instruction of the Hon’ble MoAF Minister to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth King in 2015.
The festival celebrated the importance of mushroom and in particular Matsutake mushroom which plays a huge role in the socio-economic development of the geog. Matsutake mushroom is a major source of cash income for the Geney farmers. The individual farmer’s income from the sale of Matsutake varies from Nu. 10,000 to Nu. 8500 depending upon experience.
Aum Nakum of Tsom Tola village has six family members of which three are engaged in mushroom hunting. She starts her hunt for Mutsutake as early as five in the morning and she collects around 3 kg a day when she is lucky enough. She earns around Nu. 50,000 a year. She spends the income to buy household items and farm tools. Despite the high income generated, Aum Nakum said that Matsutake collection is challenging.
Matsutake farming is highly subsistence because of small land holdings and also due to dry land with tough geographical conditions. In recent years, there has been decline in the availability of economically valuable mushrooms due to too many collectors, destruction of environment, decrease of dead wood in the forest as a result of wood chip exports.
Therefore, the festival promotes conservation and sustainable harvesting and marketing of mushrooms. It also showcased the different mushrooms for sale, traditional food stalls, local handicrafts, high altitude livestock products, farm tools and cultural programs.
The festival attracted many foreign visitors promoting off season tourism and contributing to the socio-economic development. The festival also promoted the post-harvest processing, packaging and product development of Mushrooms.
–Reported by Tashi Yangzom with picture by Choidup Zangpo, ICTD
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