Heavy modern farming equipment has rumbled into a Tibetan county tohelp with spring ploughing, a move described by local farmers as a"revolutionary" change. Pempa Dondrup, a grain farmer in Bainang county, Xigaze prefecture,said the new equipment, ranging from tractors to plows and seedingmachines, freed Tibetan farmers from manual work and shortened theploughing period from six weeks to 12 days. Eastern China's Shandong province, which has paired up withBainang, a leading agricultural production base in southwestChina's Tibet autonomous region, in the country's massive "aidTibet" project, has donated 4 million yuan (636,000 U.S.dollars) worth of farming equipment to the county this year. Thatincludes 40 tractors and more than 300 seeding machines andreversible plows. |
The machinery has been shipped in since March, and Bainang has beennamed the first Tibetan county to have fulfilled mechanization infarming, said Guo Xiangzheng, deputy chief of the county. Guo said the county has chosen the most influential farm equipmentcompanies to maintain and operate the heavy machines, explaining,"We have founded 11 cooperative societies to provideconsultation and financial services to the farmers and helpregulate the market." The equipment is leased to the farmers in times of ploughing,seeding and harvest, but "the government will subsidize 60percent of the fees," as Pempa Dondrup says. In Bainang, the costs of ploughing and seeding each "mu"(a Chinese unit of areas equivalent to 667 square meters) add up to46 yuan. "The 40 percent that's on the farmers is less thanthe cost of keeping two heads of cattle," according to PempaDondrup, who farms 43 mu of highland barley.
The use of modern farming equipment will bring drastic changes tothe Tibet plateau's agriculture, said Guo, who compares itssignificance to the introduction of iron ploughs in favor of woodenversions in the 1960s. Guo said the county will plant about 127,400 mu of crops this year,at least 80 percent of which will be ploughed by machines insteadof cattle. "More than half of the harvest will be done bymachines, too," the official adds. The change promises higher incomes for local farmers, as effectiveploughing by machines will increase harvest yields, said GaoHongbin, chief of the county's agriculture and herding bureau.
When grain farmers are freed from hard manual work, they will havetime for other jobs. Bainang has set up more than 5,300 vegetable greenhouses, forexample. More than 1,500 Tibetan farmers there have learned to growveg and 39 of them have been invited to teach the skills to farmersin other parts of Xigaze prefecture. Vegetables do not grow easily on the plateau and therefore have nottraditionally had much of a place in Tibetans' diets.
Before localfarmers learned to grow them, residents relied solely on vegetablestrucked in from neighboring Sichuan province. Today, however, 40 percent of the farmers' income in PempaDondrup's village comes from vegetables grown in the village's 108greenhouses. "Now that machines are doing most of the work in the field, wecan concentrate on growing vegetables in the greenhouses," hesaid. Author Source xinhua Editor Yang Xiaoming.
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