Dolpo, situated in the north western part of Nepal bordering Tibet, is home to some of the highest human settlements on earth. Most of the villages lie between 3500-4300 meters above sea level, so the climate is harsh with temperatures dipping down to -30 to -40 degree celsius in winter. Only potatoes and barley is cultivated in terms of agriculture which makes the inhabitants resort to animal husbandry and trade to make a subsistence livelihood. In the last few decades however, income generated from yarstagunbu, a high value caterpillar fungus, has brought major social, political and economic change in the region.
People still rely on yaks and horses for transportation since there is no road connection yet to the rest of the country or across the border. Despite its geographical remoteness, civilization has not only survived in Dolpo but also thrived for centuries with its own history, culture, language, religions, music and arts. Dolpo is the local dialect which is conversant with other dialects of the high Himalayan region and written in Tibetan script. Bon and Buddhism are the two dominant religions which constitutes over three dozen monasteries in Dolpo. Locals rely on Amchi tradition as a healthcare practice which uses herbs and other medicinal plants is to treat illnesses. Dolpo is also home to many species of flora and fauna (the term “Dolpo” is associated with the abundance of natural resources).
Until 9th century, Dolpo was a part of Tibet. Around the 14th century, it was an independent kingdom with its own king but in the 16th and 17th century, Dolpo remained under the control of its neighboring kingdoms of Jumla and Lo at different times. Dolpo became a part of present day Nepal in the 18th century when the kingdom of Lo (Mustang) was annexed by the Gorkha kings.
Within Nepal, Dolpo forms only a microscopic minority, not only geographically, but also in linguistic and ethnic terms. The arid inhospitable land and the harsh climate often lead to adverse conditions including food crisis and poverty. Literacy is still low and basic healthcare facilities are few and far between. The recent explosion of yartsagunbu economy has led to unmanaged exploitation of natural resources and depletion of the environment.