Safeguarding Sowa Rigpa: A Steep Struggle Against Socio-economic and Environmental Hurdles

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Preserving Sowa Rigpa: The Ancient Medical Tradition of Nepal’s Lo Manthang Region

Sowa Rigpa, a millennial Tibetan medicinal practice originating from Nepal’s remote Lo Manthang area in the Himalayas, confronts a variety of socio-economic and environmental obstacles. Practitioners like Gyatso Bista, 65, serve as valuable beacons of strength amongst these challenges.

Understanding the Challenges of Protecting Sowa Rigpa

Carrying forward the heritage of Sowa Rigpa, Bista and a few others are in a tough battle. The approach that leans heavily on detailed plant, fungi, and mineral remedies is under threat. Fewer youths are interested in being amchis (Sowa Rigpa practitioners like Bista), as they move to cities seeking better job opportunities.

The increasing monetization of the economy and the consequent cost of living spike further exacerbate the situation. The amchis, who were once compensated through barter, struggle to earn a living through their practice, leading to a gradual decline in the availability of medicinal herbs used in Sowa Rigpa.

Impact of Environmental Shifts

This old practice also grapples with harmful environmental changes. Milder winters and increased rainfall are harming the growth of medicinal herbs. Herbs such as kutki, padamchal, and jatamasi are becoming less available due to over-cultivation and the effects of climate change. Attempts to grow medicinal plants have had only moderate success.

Request for Official Acknowledgment and Protection

To sustain the practice, Bista and the Himalaya Amchi Association are advocating for Sowa Rigpa’s recognition by the Nepali government. Official acknowledgement could merge Sowa Rigpa with modern medicine and entice youngsters to continue this ancient tradition. This recognition could enhance preservation efforts for medicinal herbs, safeguard knowledge, and offer livelihood support for practitioners. Therefore, the future of Sowa Rigpa is pivotal to Nepal’s socio-economic and environmental well-being.


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