As the flight comes into Tibetan area, the typical and iconic landscapes show up. Just like this mysterious and vast land, it is majestic and overwhelming. From Gongga Airport, we drove all the way to the east along the Brahmaputra to the river valley. At the southern area of Kailash, there is a county named Sangri. Unlike Lhasa and Nyingchi, Sangri is not that attractive for visitors so that it is very quiet and peaceful. We headed out from Sangri and after passing through zigzag mountain road; our view became wide and boundless.
It had been afternoon when we arrived at Zhibaxia Village and Jianzan, the community facilitator, came out to greet us. It was serene afternoon with the creek gurgling only. Their houses are quite scattered and occasionally several dog barking would be heard in the open field. Jianzan entertain us with hot milk and another farmer brought buttered tea as well. Since we don’t understand Tibetan language and they don’t understand us either, we just showed our big smiles to each other to express our appreciation.
Heifer project started in Zhibaxia Village in October, 2011 that supports 31 families to raise dzo (offspring of a bull and a female yak). The Tibetans cannot live without dairy products so that livestock is not only their main income but the essential of the daily life. Jianzan told me that they were in trouble when Heifer came at first time when they were asked to reduce livestock for “grazing-zero” by government. It would be worse as the dairy food was insufficient. If so, why Heifer still provide dzo to them? And I noticed that some families have already had several cattle and I am not sure if two livestock that Heifer provided could help the needy people. With two questions, Jianzan asked me to talk with farmers directly and find the answers by myself.
“What Heifer provides is dzo. “ Ciren Bazhu didn’t take that as a question. But I was still confused. He explained: “Unlike grazing area, we raise cattle, which produce limited milk every day. Even you have several ones, the milk was still insufficient. But Heifer provides dzo.” Dzo produces much more milk than cattle. Taking butter for example, it was not enough for family consumption previously so that people had to buy from outside. Although we know the butter is good in grazing area, farmers there would not like to sale. Hence, villagers had to buy “jinli” butter which is not made by 100% milk. It costs a lot and is not as good as home-made butter so that the farmers’ life was hard in the past four years before Heifer came. Based on Heifer’s baseline survey and communication with local farmers, Heifer recognized that the effective way to help this community should be livestock improvement. Thus, Heifer provided dzo that changed farmers’ life. Bazhu told us:”they once had to collect milk for 2-3 days to make one piece of butter and for now, they could make one every single day. The dairy product is not only enough for the whole family a year, but can be sold to get income.”
Then I realized that Heifer project in not just to help people increase income, for sometimes, some difficulties cannot be solved well through income generation only in some areas. What we need to do should not be “the right thing for Heifer” rather than “the right things for farmers.” Hence, it is definitely significant for Tibetan farmers to improve the livestock breed and increase the milk production. As Jianzan said, they could use the extra cheese trade food and share butter with relatives at present. Bazhu has three dzo and four baby dzo now so they have enough milk for kids every day.
In the late afternoon, the farmers began to collect their dzo and milk at the back yard. Everyone was busy and happy. The kids run and farmers talked and laughed at dusk, which makes people feel warm and joyful. Qiangba Qunpei asked us to sit around him and told us: “I think we changed mostly in mind since Heifer’s here.” My colleague translated to me:”Heifer’s philosophy is kind of Buddhism, which is love and kind-heart. I was told that livestock can change my life before but I didn’t believe that, because I didn’t have enough milk although I’d had several cattle. However, I joined Heifer project two years ago and my life has changed a lot. ” I asked him if he has any doubt when heard Heifer at the first time. He said:”Of course I doubted. I just did not know why we need to pass on the gift. Because, you know, other projects just gave us money or something else and asked to do nothing. Then Heifer’s staff and leaders of animal husbandry bureau conducted trainings for us and let us know where the gift money comes from. It comes from some kind-heart people and companies that care about us and would like to help us. After those trainings, we began to understand and trust Heifer project.” Qunpei was Self-Help Group’s (SHG) accountant last year so he also told us:”Every record of the SHG fund is real. I think we set up SHG not for Heifer. We do that for ourselves. Before, we took care of our own family only and we know how to help each other now.” He emphasized “help each other” and continued:”Now, people can put down their work immediately for helping anyone who needs help in our community. We are not asked to but just changing gradually with Heifer project. Our selfish is fading out that we won’t be jealous anymore and we’d like to encourage people and support each other to accomplish our work.” Although he said in Tibetan language, I could feel his exciting and confidence. Zhibaxia villagers help neighbors harvest during the busy season and often get together to learn knowledge or sing and dance at leisure time. This is the impressive change here.
I became the witness of “help each other” mentioned by Qiangpei in the next day. I saw the farmers were helping Bazhu build storage room. A woman told me while pushing a stone,”you help people who will help you in some day.” What a simple truth that is always ignored by people.
I asked Qiangpei before I left, “Your life is better and better and do you have any further plan?” he thought for a minute and said:”Actually, I don’t have any further plan. I just hope everyone here could be better-off. Better than yesterday. ” I have asked a lot of farmers the same question and what I got is “travel” or “build a new house”, etc. Obviously, Qiangpei’s answer impressed me the most. I believe that most people have their own colorful plan, but without those colors, what is our simple expectation? Maybe the simple life makes people easy to find what they really need. I remember that I visited Liangshan project with some Hong Kong donors a few years ago, one of children in our group said:”Some kids in the village don’t have anything, but they are still happy. So I’m thinking, sometimes, is that they have so little or we ask too much?” I think it is a question that we all should ponder.
The view was always beautiful on our way back. There was snow on the mountain top and farmers were busying harvest beside Brahmaputra. The golden wheat was under the blue sky as well as farmers’ smile. I thought of Luyao wrote in <The ordinary world>:”Great life would be forever in the universe no matter in what form. Human being on this planet will continue to reproduce and development in the future.”