Lecture by Daniel Winkler – The Mushrooming Fungi Market

News item posted on: February 26th, 2010
The Mushrooming Fungi Market – Transforming rural Tibet

By Daniel Winkler, Tibeto-ecologist

Daniel Winkler in Nantong.

Daniel Winkler in Nantong.

The collection of wild edible fungi has a long-standing history in Tibet. Today, a wide variety of mushrooms is collected to supplement rural income. Because of the lucrative economic return, rural Tibetans have increased their gathering activities substantially. The trade of Dbyar rtswa dgun ‘bu (dongchong xiacao), as Tibetans know caterpillar fungus (Cordyceps sinensis), has developed into the main source of income in rural Tibet. It accounts for 40 percent of rural cash income and is spurring a globally unique commodification of fungi in the TAR. In 2008 the value of the best-quality Dbyar rtswa dgun ‘bu in Lha sa (Lasa) traded for around CN ¥80,000 (nearly US $12,000) per pound. The value of the 50 ton annual harvest of Cordyceps in TAR surpassed the value of the industry and mining sector in 2004. Most county agencies have established a permit system and require collectors to obtain licenses. The ever-growing economic importance of these fungi raises concerns regarding sustainability of current harvest levels and regarding the social impact of this annual income.

Daniel Winkler is a freelance “Tibeto-ecologist”. Trained as a geographer and ecologist (LMU in Munich and FU Berlin) Daniel specialized in rural development for High Asia. Daniel works as an environmental consultant and researcher living in Kirkland, Washington – USA. For the last twenty years his research and professional work focused on the environment of the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas. Daniel’s special interest is balancing local landuse, nature-based income generation, and resource management to secure conservation and sustainable development for rural communities. Daniel has published in scientific journals on topics ranging from forest ecology and forestry to traditional landuse practices and medicinal plants and in recent years especially mushrooms. Most of his papers and much more (photo essays etc.) can be found on his website www.danielwinkler.com. Daniel is also frequently leading tours to Tibet [www.mushroaming.com].

Sponsored by TSGP and the Tibet Center at the University of Virginia