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Brief introduction to agricultural and animal husbandry development in Tibetan Autonomous Region

Honourable chairman, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

Today, the Third International Congress on Yak is being held here in Lhasa. As a yak researcher, I feel very happy and believe that this congress will help facilitate the speed of development of Tibetan yak husbandry. At this special moment, I would like to express my warmest greetings to all experts and scholars from home and abroad on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), and all yak researchers in the TAR.

The TAR is an Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China mainly inhabited by Tibetan people and comprising of 1.2 million km2. It borders Xingjiang Province, Qinghai Province, Sichuan Province and Yunnan Province within China, and countries such as India, Nepal, Myanmar and Bhutan. The average elevation within the TAR is over 4000 metres above sea level (masl).

The TAR consists of 6 prefectures, 1 city and 75 counties with a total population of 2.5 million people.

The TAR is the highest and youngest plateau in the world with peculiar terrains and complicated climates. It has rich biological diversities and high elevation and low oxygen content. As far as the terrains are concerned, the TAR is surrounded by mountain ranges of Himalaya, Kunlun and Tanggula Mountains. The TAR is divided into four districts, that is Northern Tibetan plateau, Southern Tibetan valley, Eastern Tibetan canyon and Himalayan Mountain areas. Rivers, lakes and forests are found throughout the TAR. With regard to climate, the north-western part of the region is dry and cold while the south-eastern part is warm and humid with rich sunlight, strong radiation, low temperature, large differences in temperature, and a clear dry and humid season. The annual average temperature is from 5.6°C to 20°C, and rainfall decreases one hundred times from east to west (5000 to 50 mm/year). The average temperature of Lhasa is around 7.5°C, annual rainfall is about 444.6 mm, and the elevation is 3670 masl.

Animal husbandry is the basic industry of the TAR. Since democratic reform of the TAR, particularly since the adoption of open 'door policy' in China, animal husbandry and rural economy have progressed rapidly. There have been continuous good harvests for the last 12 years. The food production has increased by 79% since 1978 and the oil seed production has increased 4.1 times of that in 1978. The total agricultural production value has increased 11.3 times from that of 1978. The production value of rural industry and the per capita income has increased 77.4 times and 6 times, respectively, since 1978. At present, the goal to be self-sufficient in food that was set by the third planning meeting on development of the TAR by the Central China Government has been achieved. Food supply problem for the majority of the local population has been solved. Some of the farmers are now even well off. There is now a balance in food supply and demand where there was a situation of food shortage in some regions. The agricultural development has entered into a new stage of development. The TAR is one of the five largest pastoral areas in China. Animal husbandry is essential to the livelihood of the local people and it is the fundamental backbone industry of the TAR. TAR has a total area of 65 million hectare of rangelands, of which 59 million hectare are usable rangelands. The total population of livestock is about 23 million. Tibetan animal husbandry has been following the policy that focuses on increasing the production, income and profitability. It is guided by the principle of 'controlling the number of animal, increasing off-take, bettering the structure of production, and improving the profitability of livestock development'. Based on the local condition and in accordance to the variation of livestock production systems, livestock production in the TAR will be categorically developed. It is clear that strengthening the pastoral production system and promoting crop-livestock interaction will speed up livestock development near urban areas. To do this, the following are needed:

Yak is the domestic species that specially adapts to the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. It is tolerant to high altitude, cold conditions, and low quality feed and has high content of fat in milk, and good quality of meet and wool. Thus, in the TAR, it has been recognised as the most valuable animal in the high plateau. At present, there are more than 4 million yak in the TAR. For the last few decades, there has been great progress in developing yak husbandry. First, basic research on the ecology, biology and physiology of yak has been carried out and the productivity, eco-distribution, and characteristics of yak have been understood. Second, survey on the yak resources was conducted and the distribution of different breeds of yak in the TAR was fully understood. Third, the breeding program of yak has been strengthened so as to improve the productivity of yak. Fourth, the commercialisation of livestock production has been promoted so as to increase the economic profitability of livestock production.

With rapid development of the economy in the TAR, the agricultural and livestock development has been entered a new stage of development. Meanwhile, there is great opportunity for the TAR after the introduction of the policy of accelerating the development of western China. Further development of yak husbandry is one of the major priorities of readjusting and implementing the policy of accelerating the development of western China. Thus, utilisation and development of yak resources have to be strengthened and promoted. Our expectation is that yak husbandry will be a unique industry to the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and it might have a bright future in the near future. I am sincerely hoping that experts on yak from China and abroad will provide us with guidance and suggestion on yak production. I would like to express our warm welcome to all of you to invest in yak husbandry development in the TAR. Let us join our hands and contribute to the development of yak production in the TAR so that it reaches a stage to challenge globalisation.

Finally, I wish you a successful congress.

I wish all the delegates happy and healthy stay in Lhasa

Thank you!

Wang Wenpei
Deputy Director, Department of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, TAR, P.R. China

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