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Tibetan farmers find fortune with fruit

China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-03 09:31

Tibetan villagers plant genque tree seedlings on a slope in Dawu county, Garze prefecture, Sichuan province, on March 12. SHEN BOHAN/XINHUA

CHENGDU — In mid-March, residents of Gudiao village, deep in the mountains of the Tibetan autonomous prefecture of Garze in Sichuan province, were busy pumping water from the river below to water a batch of saplings they had just planted.

Malus toringoides is the species name of the trees. They bear red fruits and thrive at an altitude of about 3,000 meters. Villagers refer to them as genque trees.

The tender shoots of the tree can be used for tea, and their leaves for medicinal purposes. The red fruit can also be processed into beverages and jams.

"We call the genque fruit 'ruby', as in recent years, more and more villagers have gotten rich by planting these trees," said Tashi Dorje, Party chief of the village.

Before large-scale planting, genque trees were commonly found in the area but were often neglected by the villagers. In 2016, there were more than 50,000 genque trees in Dawu county, where Gudiao is located, with an annual fruit yield of around 1,500 metric tons.

"At that time, the mountains were covered with genque fruit, with most decaying and left untouched on the ground," recalled Chen Gang, former director of the Dawu environmental protection and forestry bureau.

Some villagers took the fruit to experts for analysis and found that they are quite nutritious, containing various vitamins and amino acids.

In 2017, people in Dawu began developing the genque fruit industry and launched a beverage made from the fruit.

"At first, the beverage tasted sour. Later, we improved the formula and the packaging and began large-scale production in 2019," Chen said.

Without any prior experience in running a beverage business, the villagers had to do everything from scratch.

After years of efforts, genque fruit from Dawu can be processed into jams, canned goods, beverages and other products. The signature beverage product is now well-known locally for its sweet and sour taste and rich flavor.

In recent years, demand for genque fruit has continued to grow. In 2022, Dawu planted 32,000 genque trees, and the number grew to 143,000 last year.

This year, the county purchased 177,000 seedlings to promote planting in five townships.

With the growth of the genque industry, there has been a significant increase in demand for genque seedlings. Villagers in Gudiao regard it as another major source of income in the genque seedling industry. "Saplings over 1.2 meters tall can be sold for 3 yuan ($0.42) each. Last year, I earned more than 60,000 yuan from selling seedlings," said villager Yungdrung Phuntsog, noting that his income is much higher than the normal salary for migrant workers.

Currently, Gudiao has emerged as an important supplier of genque seedlings, with all of its 68 households engaged in seedling production and the average annual household income exceeding 5,000 yuan.

"Local villagers have truly lived better lives through afforestation, attesting to the concept that 'lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets'," said Xu Tao, the Party chief stationed at the village.

Tashi Gyatso, deputy director of the rural vitalization bureau of Dawu, said that in the past two years, the planting of genque seedlings alone has provided employment opportunities for more than 10,000 people in six townships, with an average annual income increase of over 2,000 yuan per person.


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