County in Tibet Autonomous Region thrives by developing sheep breeding industry

Photo shows an Awang sheep breeding base in Kongji County, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous County. (Photo by Tibet.cn)

“Awang sheep, known for its fine sheepskin and tender meat, is a source of wealth for us here in Konjo,” said villager surnamed Akar from Jara village, Lha’gyai Township, Konji County of Qamdo, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, who’s proud of the glorious sheep breed.

His family has been a top sheep breeder in local community for decades, whose sheep pens once kept 700 Awang sheep at most.

However, many of Akar’s fellow villagers sold their sheep, even at sacrifice, years ago, due to the high cost, the lack of sales channels, and the low price. The number of sheep on hand in Konji County once fell below 30,000.

“The sheep not only consumed a large amount of fodder, but also were an obstacle that prevented us from securing a job out-of-town,” Akar told People’s Daily. His family also sold all the sheep and turned to other professions to make a living.

Five years ago, to foster local industries for poverty alleviation, Konji County decided to rebuild the business of Awang sheep. It introduced advanced breeding technologies and started a new business mode that binds together companies, breeding bases, cooperatives and farmers, so as to industrialize and scale up the business.

“Awang sheep breeding has a long history in Konji County and enjoys mature breeding technologies, which makes it a tool for poverty alleviation that is very likely to be accepted by farmers,” said Kelsang Tsering, deputy director of Konji’s bureau of agriculture and rural affairs.

Konji County established a bio-technology firm and invested 42 million yuan ($6.49 million) in building an Awang sheep breeding base in its Bolo Township in 2016. Besides, it also established processing plants for fodders and organic fertilizers, a cold chain logistics and warehouse system, and an e-commerce information platform to better facilitate the business.

Ashak is a 21-year-old young man who dropped out of high school to work and take care of his father who was seriously ill. In 2017, he joined the Awang sheep breeding base and was later sent to Tianjin Municipality and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region for systematic training. Returning to the base, he became a major technical worker, and was recently promoted. Now he earns nearly 100,000 yuan a year.

The breeding base has 20 modern sheep houses. According to Ashak, Konji County distributed 20 to 50 lambs to each registered impoverished household that was willing to develop the business. In 2019, the base spent 2.28 million yuan and bought back over 2,400 sheep from 800 households in 6 townships, expanding the income for each of these families by an average of 2,850 yuan.

At present, the breeding base can fatten 12,000 sheep each year, generating 8.6 million yuan of revenue and 3.5 million yuan of profit and tax. It has also created 38 jobs.

Besides, the county has fostered 26 demonstration villages of sheep breeding and 165 major breeders, and distributed 15,000 sheep to 835 impoverished households.

In Jara village, 13 households have entrusted their sheep distributed by local government to a cooperative and selected Akar as the head. Not long ago, a new breeding base was invested with a total value of 23 million yuan in the county’s Awang Township to explore a new mode that combines both stall-feed and pasturing methods.

“The Awang sheep business has become an important part driving the income growth in Kongji County,” said Li Jing, vice mayor of the county.