Green on the go


Young Tibetan women produce woolen blankets in a workshop, which is part of the Tibetan Dike Animal Husbandry Cooperative in Qumarleb county of Yushu, Qinghai province. WANG ZHUANGFEI/CHINA DAILY

In Yushu, Northwest China's Qinghai province, ecological protection has entered policy planning, including on poverty reduction.

In recent times, protecting the environment and ensuring livelihood have become the focus of local authorities in this prefecture-level city.

In Qumarleb county of Yushu, for example, herdsmen have joined government-supported animal husbandry cooperatives, leaving behind traditional ways.

The landlocked county, at an altitude of 4,550 meters above sea level, is heavily dependent on animal husbandry, according to county chief Nyima Tashi.

The county has established 65 cooperatives that are believed to help integrate labor and natural resources, increase people's incomes, ease pressure on the grasslands and lower the risks from extreme weather.

Local herdsman Zhaxi Gongbao, 38, joined the Tibetan Dike Animal Husbandry Cooperative in Liyue, a remote town in Yushu, in 2013.

He has 60 yaks and 50 goats in the cooperative, and earns about 3,000 yuan ($450) a month from the cooperative's profit-sharing mechanism. Members take turns to look after the animals in the cooperative and get paid by the day.


The cooperatives have drawn increasing numbers of local Tibetans in Qumarleb county. WANG ZHUANGFEI/CHINA DAILY

At times when he doesn't need to work for the cooperative, Zhaxi Gongbao and the other members usually work side jobs such as driving trucks to earn extra cash.

"In the past we had only husbandry incomes, and we barely had enough people and skills to look after both our yaks and goats," says Zhaxi Gongbao, explaining that his family's income has doubled now compared to the past.

"Our profit has been increasing every year. Many more herdsmen are willing to join us," says Zhajia, president of the cooperative.

When it was first started, the cooperative had only 22 households, with 500 yaks and 500 goats. The cooperative's benefits and management style have won the trust of its members, Zhajia says.

Now it has 45 households, with 1,500 yaks and 2,800 goats under its management.

The local government also has sought to upgrade agriculture here by promoting special crops such as yuangen, a kind of turnip that grows well on the highland and has higher yield than traditional crops like barley.

The turnip has a long history of growing on the plateau and its leaves are used as animal feed.

The tubers, however, are rich in microelements and have an anti-hypoxic effect.

After experiments, local agronomists have succeeded in planting the turnip on higher land that was barren earlier.

Natural fertilizers such as yak dung are used, and that has made the land richer for yuangen cultivation, local officials say.

In Chengduo county of Yushu, a factory has been set up where yuangen is processed into juice and snacks. The products are sold in different parts of Qinghai and the Tibet autonomous region.

According to Li Hongwei, general manager of the factory, the processing started with the funding of the local government after a major earthquake in 2013. Since then the unit, which was established in 2004, has developed several products based on the crop.

Besides its own growing area of more than 17 hectares, the factory has established cooperatives with local farmers.

"We buy from them-1 yuan per half kilogram. The farmers are very happy about the business," says Li.


The local crop yuangen is processed into drinks and snacks at a factory in Chengduo county. WANG ZHUANGFEI/CHINA DAILY

The factory has more than 20 regular workers. It hires up to 70 people, mostly farmers nearby, during the peak season. A common worker in the factory earns about 1,800 yuan a month, and a technical worker gets some 3,000 yuan.

After working in the factory for a few years, Sonang Danzhu, 40, who used to be a barley farmer, now makes 3,200 yuan per month.

"Working in the factory has given us economic assurance," says Sonang Danzhu, whose family has six members. They were able to equip their home with electrical appliances like a television and a refrigerator last year.

After he started working in the factory, his family has also started growing yuangen, which brings more income than barley.

The factory made 4 million yuan last year.

The entire industry is involved in the green drive, Li says. After the juice from the plant is taken out in the factory, the waste is given back to the families to feed their yaks and goats, for example.

During the 12th Five-year Plan (2010-15), Qinghai combined targeted poverty reduction with ecological protection, and brought 1 million people out of poverty during the period, according to Ma Fengsheng, head of the province's poverty alleviation and development bureau.