Explore Tibet, a Lhasa-based Tibet travel agency focused on responsible tourism and sustainable practice, has completed a donor-led project to purchase and install a barley roaster in Tibet’s Lhakang Township. This roaster will improve food production in the local villages, and help sustain the rural Tibetan way-of-life.
The project began in 2010 when two tourists from Amsterdam, Cristian and Renate, traveled with the Explore Tibet team to Lhakang village for a summer festival. This was their third Tibet tours, and they decided they wanted to contribute something to the place and the people that had come to mean so much to them.
The head of Lhakang village, a man named Pasang, invited the couple to his tents where they spoke about ways in which they could benefit the community. The Explore Tibet team facilitated the conversation, and when the purchase of a barley roaster was settled on, the team agreed to oversee the project after the couple left.
Lhakang Township is about 150 kilometers north of Lhasa, located on the south bank of the Reting Tsangpo River. Because of its remote location the villagers lead a traditional lifestyle uninfluenced by the rapid changes of modernization. The Township has four villages, 230 households and a population of 1544 including both farmers and nomads.
Life in the township is impossible without Tibetan tsampa (roasted barley flour). Tsampa has been important to Tibetan livelihood for thousands of years and is often called the national food of Tibet. The ground, roasted barley is easily digestible and is readily absorbed by the body. Tibetans also traditionally use tsampa for religious rituals and offerings and as an auspicious symbol for important celebrations like Tibetan New Year.
After Explore Tibet received funds from the donor they ordered the roaster from a Tibetan family-owned equipment shop. The villagers donated their labor to construct a house for the roaster, and Explore Tibet donated transportation of the machine to the site. After installation, responsibility for the roaster’s use and maintenance was given to the township. Every family will have access to the roaster and each family will pay a small management fee to the township for maintenance costs.
The former method of roasting barley required a group of people processing the barley over several days. The introduction of the barley roaster to the village will save time and energy for each and every family, especially those with limited labor ability.