Modern greenhouses now dot Bainang county, Xigaze, southwest China’s Tibet autonomous region, and add color to the fields, signaling China’s remarkable achievements in promoting modern agriculture in recent years.
“We can grow over 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables, something we couldn’t even imagine in the past,” said Pasang Dondrup, executive with an agricultural technology development company in Bainang county.
The county is situated by the Nyangchu River at an average altitude of over 4,000 meters. In the memory of Pasang Dondrup, local villagers barely produced or bought vegetables in the past.
It was an official from east China’s Shandong province aiding the autonomous region that discovered the potential of the plateau county in growing fruits and vegetables, as it is a place that enjoys long sunshine hours and large diurnal temperature variation.
In early 2002, local villagers were encouraged to grow greenhouse vegetables by the official. As one of a few middle school students in his village, Pasang Dondrup worked as an interpreter for the official.
However, the villagers doubted the idea, as they were reluctant to replace highland barley, a crop they had been planting for long, with vegetables, wondering whether vegetables could survive on the highland.
As a result, the official could only resort to village cadres and students like Pasang Dondrup, hoping to have a trial of his idea in their families first.
“Let’s try to build greenhouses and grow vegetables together; we offer funds and technologies, and all you have to do is to plant,” the official told them. “We can both eat or sell the vegetables we grow,” he added.
Later, the first batch of greenhouses sprouted in Bainang county, built with adobe, steel frames and thin films.
With village cadres setting an example, more and more villagers in Bainang started growing vegetables in greenhouses. In Pasang Dondrup’s village, batches of transparent conservatories were springing up, making villagers self-sufficient in vegetable supply.
When Pasang Dondrup graduated from college and returned to Bainang county in 2007, he was surprised to see that most of the adobe greenhouses in his hometown were replaced with concrete ones.
It also amazed him that his uncle, who had never been a vegetable-eater, had built greenhouses and turned from a highland barley grower into a professional vegetable farmer.
Pasang Dondrup’s uncle was inspired by the story of Phantsang village, the first village in Bainang county to build greenhouses for vegetable planting. After years of exploration and experiment, it has become a model village in the county for vegetable cultivation.
In addition, promoted by batches of officials from Shandong province to aid Tibet, more and more residents in Bainang county began to eat vegetables, which gradually opened up the once-dim vegetable market.
Pasang Dondrup still remembers how surprised he was when he walked into his uncle’s new concrete greenhouses and saw the thriving fruits and vegetables.
“Apart from supplying our family, we are also gaining a good profit by selling the fruits and vegetables,” his uncle told him.
The development of the greenhouse industry and improvement of infrastructure in Bainang village have created huge opportunities, and Pasang Dondrup is one of the beneficiaries.
The man chose biogas digester as his first project, as clean and efficient energy was a new demand for villagers in Bainang who had just bid a farewell to the era of cow dung and firewood burning.
“Bainang has ushered in a golden era for development,” he said.
“At the beginning, adobe greenhouses made villagers totally self-sufficient in vegetable production; later, brick-concrete greenhouses allowed people to benefit from the vegetable market; now, we’ve even started to use automated modern greenhouses,” he noted, adding that along with the evolving greenhouses, villagers are embracing a better life.
Like Pasang Dondrup, more and more people in Bainang county have become optimistic about local agriculture and are engaged in the vegetable greenhouse industry.
Nearly one-third of the households in Bainang county have been developing vegetable greenhouses and the greenhouses dotted around the county are able to produce more than 140 kinds of fruits and vegetables.