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Opening addresses and remarks

Opening address, by Gyalbu

Respected chairman, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

We are all very happy that the Third International Congress on Yak is being held today here in Lhasa. It is my great pleasure to be here on behalf of the People's Government of Tibetan Autonomous Region to express our sincere congratulations and our warmest welcome to all the delegates from various parts of the world and from sister provinces of China.

The Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) lies in the south-western part of P.R. China. It is the main body of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau with a total area of 1.2 million square kilometres occupying one-eighth of the total territory of P.R. China. With high and steep topography, the TAR has been known as the roof and the third pole of the world. More than 86% and 45% of the total land of the TAR have average altitudes higher than 4000 and 5000 meters above sea level (masl), respectively. High mountains with wide distribution and great variation in altitude result in great diversity in the region. There are 50 high mountains where the altitudes are above 7000 masl and another 11 with altitudes above 8000 masl. With unique topographical and geographical features that affect climate, biology and the soil, the TAR has formidable and unique landscape and sight. All these make the TAR quite different from other regions in terms of the tourism resources. The tourist sights are not only based on natural resources, but also the Tibetan culture, history and religion.

Within the great complexity of topography, surrounded by high mountains, steep slopes, alternated with mountains and lakes and great diversity of landscape, there are not only climatic zones ranging from tropical, subtropical and temperate to cool and cold zones, but also very apparent vertical distributions. As a result of this, there are rich biodiversity, mineral deposits and fresh water resources in the TAR. Studies concluded that the TAR has the highest number of animal species in China. Findings reported that there are 798 different amniotes in the TAR. The TAR is also one of the provinces in China, which has the richest forestry resources and the largest area of natural forestry. The TAR also has many lakes and rivers that provide considerable amount of fresh water resources. All these valuable resources have great potential to form a fundamental base to boost up the social and economic development of the TAR.

There are more than 30 different minorities, mostly Tibetans, in the TAR with a total population of 2.5 million. Despite the harsh and cold livelihood conditions, the hardworking and talented Tibetans have created a splendid culture from generation to generation since a long time back. I believe that with their warm hospitality, the honest Tibetans will give all of you a good impression.

The TAR is one of five largest pastoral areas in China. The great expansion of rangelands with a total area of 65 million hectare occupies 54% of the TAR landmass. At present, there is 59 million hectare of usable rangelands in the TAR. The remaining rangelands are distributed in the high altitude areas with very cold climate. The strong radiation and great fluctuation in temperature from day to night provide a good condition for producing more and better quality grasses. Currently, the total number of livestock in the TAR is about 23 million. There are more than 4 million yak in the TAR, which comprise of more than 30% of the total number of the yak population in P.R. China. Breed diversity of yak is one of the most valuable resources for yak production in the TAR.

Recently, with overall guidance from the Planning Meeting on Tibetan Development of the Central China Government and with generous supports from sister provinces in China, the TAR has become further strengthened by adopting the 'open door' policy, implementing the strategy of accelerating development through promotion of science, technology and education, and accelerating infrastructure development. Thus, a notable progress in socio-economic development has been achieved. Now the living standard of the people is improving rapidly and the application of science and technology in agricultural development is increasing, particularly after implementing the policy of accelerating the development of western China. The socio-economic development of the TAR will certainly be further enhanced and will result in remarkable changes in future. Nevertheless, as one of the largest pastoral areas in China with a huge population of yak, we are still far behind in terms of development of yak husbandry, science and technology and in improvement and conservation of rangelands as compared to other developed countries and sister provinces. We need to learn to close these gaps. The Third International Congress on Yak, which is held here in the TAR, is a good opportunity for us to learn. The exchange of ideas among the delegates would provide us good experiences. I believe that it will further facilitate livestock development; particularly it will bring deep and positive effects on sustainable development of yak husbandry.

The 20th century has been a memorable one for the world. At the end of this century, looking back, the advancement in science and technology has promoted the progress and civilisation of human society. Science and technology is now closely linked with all aspects of development and livelihoods of people. Therefore, accepting and respecting science and technology and promoting these into a driving force of production are the urgent needs and wishes of all people. I believe that a successful organisation of the Third International Congress on Yak in Lhasa is not only a chance for learning and exchanging ideas, but also a great opportunity for all experts on yak to know each other and to strengthen collaboration with each other.

Respected delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

The month of September in Lhasa is pleasant. I would like to recommend you to go around and see some of the unique sights of the Plateau. Meanwhile, I would like to state that this is a good and a fast growing period of development for the TAR and we hope to bring into effect of the results of the policy for accelerating the development of western China. It will provide more and better opportunities for the TAR to develop further. Therefore, I hope that all the delegates and distinguished guests can enter into collaboration with us and invest in the TAR.

Finally, I sincerely wish for a successful congress. I wish all of you a happy and healthy stay in Lhasa.

Thank you!

Vice Governor of People's Government of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, P.R. China

Opening remarks, by Chen Zhenrong

Respected honourable chairman, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

Based on the resolution of the Second International Congress on Yak held in Xining in 1997, the Third International Congress on Yak is being held in Lhasa in September 2000. The People's Government of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) has given a great importance to this congress and has requested the Tibetan Academy of Agricultural and Animal Sciences to organise the congress. Therefore, we feel privileged and have put much emphasis on it as a major activity of the Academy in the year 2000. To hold this congress successfully, an efficient preparation group was formed and all relevant tasks have been accomplished. Today, the Third International Congress on Yak is convening ceremoniously in Lhasa. I, on behalf of the Tibetan Academy of Agricultural and Animal Sciences, would like expressing our warmest welcome to all the distinguished delegates and guests.

As one of the five largest pastoral areas in China, the TAR has a long history of livestock development, which is important to the Tibetan people. In addition to the common characteristics, Tibetan livestock development also has the unique plateau specialty. The Central China Government, the Tibetan Departments and sister provinces have selected and sent many experts on animal husbandry and veterinary to work in the TAR. Meanwhile, many Tibetans have also been trained in China for further studies. Research and technology development have been improving step by step, and now there are professionals and technicians who are mainly local Tibetans. Many staff of livestock related institutions have specialised in animal husbandry and veterinary to overcome a lot of difficulties such as the harsh natural environments and poor living conditions. These professionals and technicians have achieved marvellous accomplishments after long and hard work.

Because of some major limitations, such as high elevation, cold weather, lack of oxygen and harsh conditions, there are certain gaps compared to other developed regions in terms of scientific research and education, especially in the production and sustainable development of yak husbandry. Till today, a local research and development system has not been developed.

There are 15 million yak in the world, of which 13.5 million are distributed in China. The TAR is the second province after the Qinghai Province in terms of yak population and has 30% of the total yak population. Such a large yak population is one of the main advantages for the TAR and the local Tibetans. This is the main source of meat, milk and butter. Although we have had only some success in yak research, development and technological extension, some of the achievements have reached a high level and has been successful in promoting the development of Tibetan livestock production and also improving the living condition of the Tibetan people. But we realise clearly that the advantages of yak production in the TAR has not yet been explored fully. Development and utilisation of yak resources are still relatively slow and lag behind. However, we think that there is great potential to develop yak production in the TAR.

To speed up the development of western China, the Central China Government has introduced the strategy to accelerate the development of western China at the turn of the century, which will play an important role in promoting economic development and social stability. In this respect, we would like to take the opportunity to establish wider and closer co-operation in research and development (R&D) through reorientation of R&D so as to re-adjust the structure of agricultural production and thereby to promote economic development in the TAR.

The Third International Congress on Yak is a forum for the experts at home and abroad. It is a chance for all researchers and enterprisers to exchange experiences. It will also give us a lot of inspirations and directions. We will both learn from all experts and also hope that the friends from all over the world will invest in the TAR and discuss ways of co-operation that will help improve the economic development of the TAR. To achieve sustainable development of yak husbandry, let us join our hands to work together.

Finally, I wish you all a healthy and happy stay and a successful congress!

Thank you!

Chen Zhenrong
President of the Tibetan Academy of Agriculture and Animal Sciences, TAR, P.R. China

Opening remarks, by Denis Hoffmann

Distinguished guests, participants, friends and especially our organising committee,

On behalf of the Director-General of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for FAO in the Asia and Pacific Region, I wish you all a successful international congress. We, at FAO, recognise the significant contributions that the 15 million yak in the world make to the people of the mountainous regions of central Asia.

I am confident that this congress will promote the sharing of information and experiences in the hope to better identify constraints and solutions to problems associated with disease control, pastureland development and grazing, long-term breeding strategies, conservation of genetic resources, eco-tourism and product development in this region.

FAO has a focus on food security and poverty alleviation and play a co-ordinating role in fostering localised initiatives to overcome some of the problems that will be highlighted at this congress through dialogue and action. The ability of international agencies in general, including FAO, to get donor support for local and regional initiatives of the kind to be discussed at this congress will be dwindled. The clear message to all of us from the donor community is that they prefer individual country requests for assistance rather than the international agencies requesting the assistance. The donors do see a role for FAO to act as the regional co-ordinator or focal point of such activities. The preference is for regional organisation such as the Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific (APHCA), which is founded on the principle of technical co-operation between countries, to facilitate co-operation between multiple bilateral donor projects with national management.

I am certainly not an expert on yak, so I am here to listen and learn and help whenever possible.

Thank you!

Denis Hoffmann
Representative of FAO-Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (FAO-ROAP), Bangkok, Thailand

Opening remarks, by Horst E. Geilhausen

Respected honourable chairman, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

As Acting President of the Yak and Camel Foundation (Krempe, Germany) I would like to thank the organisers of the Third International Congress on Yak, particularly the colleagues of the Tibetan Academy of Agricultural and Animal Sciences and Dr Han Jianlin, Head of the International Yak Information Centre (IYIC) at the Gansu Agricultural University (Lanzhou, P.R. China), that they were in the position to make it possible to have the congress here in Lhasa.

The Yak and Camel Foundation was founded in 1992 with the main objectives to scientifically document two species, namely the yak (Bos grunniens) and the two-humped camel (Camelus bactrianus). These animals enable human life under extreme climate conditions. The yak in the Himalayas in altitudes of 4000 to 6000 meters above the sea level and the bactrian camels in the deserts and desert steppes in Central Asia.

In line with its objectives, the Yak and Camel Foundation sponsors research and dissertation. As an example, on an annual basis awards for the three best yak publications are sponsored:

  1. price = DM 2000
  2. price = DM 1000
  3. price = DM 500

Further activities encompass the realisation of scientific symposia. Thus the foundation co-organised and sponsored the First, the Second and the Third International Congresses on Yak in Lanzhou (Gansu, P.R. China) in 1994, Xining (Qinghai, P.R. China) in 1997, and Lhasa (Tibet, P.R. China) in 2000.

Thank you!

Horst E. Geilhausen
Yak and Camel Foundation, Krempe, Germany

Opening remarks, by J. Gabriel Campbell

Regional collaboration for applied yak research

Respected leaders of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, distinguished scientists and colleagues,

It is an honour for the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), to join with our Chinese and international partners in supporting this important Third International Congress on Yak.

ICIMOD is dedicated to supporting integrated research and development in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region. Over 60 % of this region consists of rangelands, much of which is high altitude pastures between 2500 and 5000 meters above sea level.

The yak, as the only bovine to adapt to the cold and harsh conditions of this region has been instrumental in both nurturing and helping to shape its remarkable biodiversity, and patterns of landscape change in these mountain areas. The Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) is to be congratulated on establishing a nature preserve in the remote Chantang, which remains the last place where wild yak still survive.

The Hindu Kush-Himalaya is also the home of yak herders and farmers whose livelihoods and cultures have depended on the yak and its crossbreed progeny for millennia. The range of products and services provided by the yak is astounding, though not well understood outside the region, for example:

The movement of yak through the diversity of herding regimes and trading patterns has also created and maintained economic and social networks, and contributed to regional stability and mutual understanding.

The future of the yak and the critical role it has played in the past is undergoing rapid change.

I understand from some of the zoologists and geneticists among us that there are important unanswered questions regarding the degree of genetic diversity, inbreeding and distribution of desired traits among yak—to name just a few that a non-biologist such as myself can comprehend. Survival of the species and livelihoods related to it will depend on the degree to which we continue to help yak adapt to our changing ecological and socio-economic environment and maintain its health.

Does this require more intensive breeding to develop increased productivity and disease resistance?

Does it mean we should co-operate more on the ground to exchange genetic resources across the region?

Do DNA tools allow us to collaborate internationally to improve the scientific basis for improved breeding?

I understand from some of the pasture, water and geography specialists among us that there are similarly important questions related to rangelands and forage.

Research throughout the world has documented how most traditional systems of range management maximised long-term sustainability by flexible community systems adapted to specific ecological situations. With roads and other extensive infrastructure development and agricultural intensification, the availability of rangelands, the amount of water they receive, and the species of plants in these pastures has changed. New policies have introduced fencing, on-farm forage production, and new forms of pasture management. All of these naturally disrupt previous systems, and there are important questions on their ecological, economic and social impacts.

Can we respect and make indigenous knowledge and range management a critical part of our scientific understanding of yak ecosystem management?

Can we use this understanding as the backbone of policies for assisting the wise yak herdsmen and women to introduce positive change?

In addition, new market forces, a modern and global economy and aspirations for improved standards of living among the new generation of yak herders, also raise important questions for the future of yak-based livelihoods.

Surrounded by rangelands, yak and cattle, Lhasa, TAR, imports milk, butter and cheese from all over the world; trucks are the main transport for trade items throughout much of the region; hydroelectricity and kerosene power are used in cooking stoves; chemical fertiliser is replacing manure in cropping systems; cotton blue jeans, nylon bags and tents and polyester coats are replacing yak fabrics; the new generation wants to watch TV-and even the old one wants access to better health care for themselves and their animals.

As governments struggle to find means to address these changes, they often rely on familiar models developed from sedentary, plains-based systems. As my colleagues work in ICIMOD has shown, and I am sure some of your research also has addressed, these models are often not suited to the needs of yak herding and mountain peoples.

Can we improve milk, meat and fibre production, processing and marketing to increase incomes while retaining critical elements of traditional yak management?

Can we find ways to use new technologies, such as wireless communications and the Internet to bring distance learning, healthcare, and electronic commerce to overcome the barriers of moving populations?

Can we institutionalise participatory methods of planning and introducing change, including technological change, to increase local ownership and sustainability?

All these are not easy questions, and they require some of the rigorous and detailed scientific investigations that you are conducting and sharing with each other at this congress.

I congratulate you in this effort. As the world's leading experts in yak, the world policy makers rely on you to provide the research results and guidance upon which they can make wise decisions. I hope you can continue to build on the co-operation you are demonstrating today to improve and increase regional and international co-operation in yak research. I hope you can seek ways to communicate these results in simple and useable ways to yak herders, agricultural workers and policy makers.

I assure you that ICIMOD will continue to be a partner in these efforts. My colleagues, Camille Richard and Archana Karki, will be here throughout the week to participate in this congress and to share information on our work in the region.

With best wishes for a successful congress, and profound thanks to our hosts for bringing us together at this beautiful city on the roof of the world-the home of the magnificent, always slightly wild, and beautiful yak!

Thank you!

J. Gabriel Campbell
Director General, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal