Across China: Skills, industries spawn fortune in SW China’s Tibet

By: Xinhua
Updated: Aug. 28, 2020

Over the past three years, Sonam has been a farmer, herder and construction worker before finally becoming a skilled mushroom cultivator at a modern workshop.

Sonam, 45, hails from Xaitongmoin County in the city of Xigaze, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. He and his wife, one of the registered impoverished households, were relocated to the town in 2018 as part of the nation's efforts to eradicate absolute poverty by 2020.
He received training for three months at a workshop near his home. It was where he learned mushroom cultivation from the very basics. And through his acquired skills, now he is able to generate an income of more than 4,000 yuan (about 580 U.S. dollars) a month.
As millions of impoverished residents are relocated from barren and disaster-prone areas to more habitable locations in China, industries matching local characters are fostered to help generate employment for the relocated and lift them out of poverty.
"In the past, I could only work two to three months a year as a construction worker in cities because I had to return home to harvest crops. In contrast, the workshop job at the doorstep is much more stable," Sonam said.
The workshop where Sonam works is part of a biotech demonstration park in Xaitongmoin County, the only enterprise in Tibet that combines mushroom growing, biofuel manufacturing and professional training. The state-owned company was established in 2019 with a total investment of 150 million yuan.
Huang Minfeng, deputy general manager of the company, said the company produces different kinds of fungi, such as oyster mushrooms, and hires workers including those from 59 impoverished households.
It also offers training, through which local residents have become competent in growing mushrooms at home. Farming, breeding, e-commerce and technical aspects are covered in the training.
Sonam's wife, Kyipa, is one of the 500-plus people who have been trained by the company.
"The trainers are experts from other provinces, and the entire training is provided free of charge," Kyipa said.
She said she was given more than 300 packs of fungus, which are grown in a tiny greenhouse, roughly the size of two ping-pong tables at her home.
When the mushrooms are harvested, she will sell them to a local cooperative, earning some 2,000 to 3,000 yuan annually. The demonstration zone will then purchase the mushrooms from the cooperative.
Across the county, more than 800 households are engaged in edible fungus cultivation, including 561 registered impoverished households.
In the first half of this year, some 200,000 packs of fungus have been distributed among the residents, so they can grow mushrooms at home, according to Huang.
He said the company produced more than 700 tonnes of mushrooms in the first half of this year, and more species, such as white fungus, will be grown next year.
"As we produce more fungi, we have planned to start a mushroom sauce production line and then make the mushroom residue into biofuel," said Huang.
The company's annual output is expected to exceed 36 million yuan next year, creating 170 jobs.
Over the past four years, China relocated 9.3 million poor rural residents to more inhabitable areas, 9.2 million of whom were later lifted out of poverty, said the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planning body.
According to the regional government of Tibet, the number of poverty-relief industrial projects covering farming, breeding and processing sectors reached 2,871 in the region by the end of July. Such projects have helped 238,000 impoverished residents, including Sonam and Kyipa, shake off poverty.