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Tibetan Agriculture

Tibetan farmers and herders have been used for centuries to market their agricultural products in exchange for industrial products from the lowland. On the other hand, they are not used to marketing their agricultural activities or their image. The Valais province in Switzerland, on the contrary, has based part of its image on its products. This means not only selling high quality products, but also cultivating the image of the farmers who produce them. Branding and quality labels are a vital component of this process (see below).

Agriculture has got much more to offer than only the products. For many people, the production process has its own value. For many decades, "back to nature" has been a slogan in Western countries; in China, it becomes more and more prominent. Holidays in a farmhouse have always been a popular holiday destination in many countries, especially in Northern Europe, the USA and Australia. In China, many urban residents have got family members in the countryside; paying them a visit is a popular pastime for weekends and holidays. Of course, travelling to the countryside where they know nobody might also remind them of the Cultural Revolution, but the recent increase in Mao's popularity could boost this new way of spending the holidays. The Tibetan areas have got much to offer in this field: spending such holidays on horseback in the Tibetan highlands is obviously more attractive than doing it in muddy rice fields.

There is one Tibetan agricultural product which has a huge potential, but which is totally unknown in Western countries: Tibetan honey. Honey bees have had a hard time in many Western countries; in recent years, many hives have suddenly died for reasons which are still a mystery; many experts point to powerful new pesticides as a possible cause.

Honey produced in Western countries is also problematic because of the huge quantities of pesticides and other chemical products used in agriculture. Some people recommend using honey produced in big cities like Paris: they say that despite the heavy pollution, the honey produced there is still less contaminated by chemical products than the honey produced in the countryside.

Honey is already produced in many Tibetan areas, but it is not sold in Western countries. Honey can easily be transported over great distances and it can get a very good price in highly industrialized countries. What is more, it is relatively easy through pollen analysis to authenticate the origin of the honey. This product can become a major source of income for local farmers.

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