Four years ago, in Doilungdeqen County near Lhasa, 235 farmers formed a cooperative to market fresh vegetables and flowers in Lhasa and nearby areas. Their produce, grown at 3,700 meters above sea-level, sells like hot cakes, partly due to the environmental-friendly cultivation methods.
Lagen attending to asparagus lettuce (Celtuce) in her greenhouse. The crop earns her more than 10,000 yuan a year.
Lagen showed us one of her greenhouses where tomato plants were already loaded with green fruit. She rents two greenhouses and does all the work herself. In one greenhouse, she grows around 8,000 jin (1 jin=0.5 kilogram) of tomatoes a year. In the other greenhouse, she is trying out a new vegetable this year 篓C asparagus lettuce. The coop has helped her find a buyer prepared to pay two yuan a jin. "I usually earn around 20,000 yuan a year," said Lagen.
Tibetan people now have a variety of food to choose from and, as subsistence is no longer a problem, they have shifted their attention to the quality of life.
Mr. Lai is working in the carnation field.
Mr. Lai came to Doilungdeqen County from Chongqing this May. His son has rented 15 greenhouses in the growing base to cultivate flowers. "Our flowers sell fast in Lhasa and we don"t need to look elsewhere for markets," said Mr. Lai. All his family came with him, but they can"t manage the 15 greenhouses on their own, so his son hired five local herdsmen and trained them. They now earn 1,000 yuan a month.
Mr. Lai"s son did his homework on the Lhasa market before quitting his job in Chongqing to put all his energy into the flower business. "Tibetan people know very little about flower cultivation," said Mr. Lai. "But they will soon learn our cultivation methods, and how to exploit the market." This year his son traveled to Sichuan three times to look for new outlets for his flowers. At the moment the Lai"s can hardly meet Lhasa"s demand for flowers, but in the future, he expects competition from Tibetans entering the market, and knows he will need to look further afield.
Three decades ago, vegetables were virtually unobtainable in Tibet at any price. But today, fresh vegetables, and even fresh flowers, are available all year round even in the depths of winter. These changes reflect the transformation of the lifestyle of ordinary Tibetan people over the past 30 years.
Bhuchung, deputy head of the cooperative, noted that there are plans to expand the base and introduce large-scale cultivation. "We are trying to boost the development of agriculture in Tibet," Bhuchung said, "and, of course, providing people with fresh vegetables to eat and flowers to decorate their homes."
Vegetables flourish in an environmental-friendly greenhouse.
Farmers removing quilts from the roof of a greenhouse to let the sunshine in.
Tomato plants in a greenhouse 3,700 meters above sea level.
Roses are ready to bloom in a greenhouse.
A farmer attending to her tomatoes in a greenhouse.