Vegetable crops boost health, wealth of Tibetans
Early in the morning, Li Shouyuan put on rubber shoes and hurried to his greenhouses to harvest vegetables.
"It is a key period for picking and selling zucchinis these days, as the prices are good. There is no time to lose," said the villager in Jang Village, Chushur County of Lhasa, capital city of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. With the fast development of agricultural infrastructure, Jang Village has become a renowned "vegetable village."
In old Tibet, vegetables used to be a luxury and were eaten only by the upper class. Now, vegetables are put on the dining tables of all households, providing good incomes for vegetable growers like Li.
Penpa, one of Li's fellow villagers, is also a witness to the development of the Tibetan vegetable industry. "Now, we can eat all kinds of fresh vegetables, including many fashionable ones like cherry tomatoes and okra. In the past, no one would have expected to be able to eat them."
Before the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951, eating vegetables was the privilege of serf-owners and other lords. Many serfs had never tasted vegetables in their lives.
Over the past 70 years, China's central authorities have made the supply of vegetables an important task to improve people's lives. Through the building of vegetable-production bases, the production capacity in Tibet has been significantly improved, overcoming various constraints, including the climate.
In 2020, the vegetable planting area in Tibet reached 25,820 hectares, and the annual output stood at 843,400 tons. The days when vegetables were hard to get and more expensive than meat have long become a thing of the past.
"Chushur County has not only enriched people's 'vegetable basket' through the development of the vegetable industry over the past years, but also fattened their wallets," said Tashi Yangzom, deputy director of the county's bureau of agriculture and rural affairs.
In April 2020, Li and his wife spent more than 70,000 yuan (about 10,800 US dollars) to rent four greenhouses in the village. This year, he is expecting to earn about 200,000 yuan from the greenhouses.
With an average altitude of more than 4,500 meters, the Ngari Prefecture is also seeing a booming vegetable industry, thanks to technicians, special funding and other support.
At present, Ngari has 893 greenhouses covering about 35 hectares, and the annual output stands at 5,400 tons.
The increase in vegetable consumption and the generally improved diet are believed to be behind the increasing life expectancy of the Tibetan people. The average life expectancy in Tibet increased from 35.5 years in 1951 to 71.1 years in 2020, official data showed.