Trade along the Kali Gandaki

The Kali Gandaki/Thak Khola valley was a major trade route for centuries. Until 1959 traders exchanged salt, collected from the salt lakes of Tibet, for rice and barley from the Middle Hills of Nepal. The Tibetans also traded wool, livestock and butter for sugar, tea, spices, tobacco and manufactured goods from India, but the salt-for-grain trade dominated the economy. This trade diminished, not only because of the political changes in Tibet, but also because Indian salt is available throughout Nepal at a much lower price than Tibetan salt.

In addition, Indian salt comes from the sea and contains iodine. Many people in Nepal once suffered from goitres because of the absence of iodine from their diet. Indian aid programs distributed sea salt in a successful effort to prevent goitres, but the Tibetan salt trade suffered. The Thakali people of the Kali Gandaki Valley had a monopoly on the salt trade in this region and grew conspicuously wealthy. They have now turned to agriculture, tourism and other forms of trade for their livelihood.