Encouraged by the market opportunities opened up by the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, Tibet is starting to adopt a more innovative, market-oriented approach to farming and animal husbandry in order to lift its rural and pastoral population out of abject poverty.
An official from the Office for Poverty Eradication and Development of Tibet Autonomous Region said a range of ventures would be set up in the altiplano region's rural and pastoral areas in the years to come.
"Most Tibetan farmers and herders live in far-flung areas which are hard to access because of a lack of infrastructure," said the official.
According to him, the new ventures will target cereals, oils, fruits and vegetables, farms capable of raising more than a million head of cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens, and will be accompanied by a new processing and marketing network.
The ventures are designed to ensure that 964,000, or 46 percent of Tibet's total rural and pastoral population, will have enough to eat and wear and that a further 500,000 residents will be able to live a comparatively affluent life.
Initial results have been encouraging, according to the official.
A total of 312 ventures were set up at a cost of 340 million yuan (about US$ 42.5 million) between 2004 and 2006. Half of the investment funds came from state coffers.
Sheep wool, the raising of yaks, highland barley and medicinal herbs unique to Tibet proved to be the most lucrative businesses, followed by dairy cattle, chickens and pigs, and the production of organic vegetables.
Tibet now has a population of 2.7 million, 80 percent of whom are farmers and herders. The central government has provided Tibet with more than 6.2 billion yuan (US$ 775 million) of assistance in the past decade.
Last year, farmers and herders posted a per capita net annual income of 2,078 yuan (US$ 260), about 64 percent of the national average.
Tibetan herders and farmers will earn a per capita net annual income of 3,820 yuan (US$ 477.5), close to the national average for farmers, by 2010.
(Xinhua News Agency December 15, 2006)