Yesterday was my last day of classes and today is the first day of our month-long Independent Study Project.
This afternoon I am taking a night bus to Tumlingtar, a jeep ride to Num, and trekking for two days to get to Chyamtang village in the Upper Arun valley. The area is the deepest valley in the world and has remarkable biodiversity because it remains remote.
I am partnering with an organization called The Mountain Institute (www.mountain.org)
who do development and conservation projects in mountain communities. A few years ago, they set up a medicinal plant project in Chyamtang and I am going there to observe it. My independent study project is about medicinal plant conservation and indigenous knowledge participation in community and forestry development project. That is to say, how people are effected by their environments and the practical exchange that can go on between indigenous and modern resource conservation methods.
The people in Chyamtang are Bhutia, a Tibetanoid indigenous group that are Bon and Buddhist. I will be spending ten days there then trekking south and staying in village there. The people in these villages are from the Rai group and believe that they are decedents from the Giant Stinging Nettle plant in Nepal. They use this plant in all their rituals and ceremonies but it also is used to make fibers and fabrics, now being used by development organizations for livelihood and economic growth. So the question here is, how can the sanctity of indigenous knowledge be preserved while is used for money-making in a global market?
At this point, all my research is theoretical, but it is all waiting to be discovered in the field. I will return on December 3rd and share my findings. Until then, I will be safe and I love you.