Local Entrepreneurs and the Nomad Market

The market economy slowly crept onto the plateau in the '90s as markets began to explode in China. In the old days, goods were scarce and hard to come by, and nomads were used to relying on themselves for food and clothing. They ate meat and dairy products from the animals they herded, made their chubas from sheepskins, which they might embellish with a fur border, and fashioned their boots from yak skins.

Brocade from China, or Tibetan woolen cloth woven by farmers, wer
e prized items used to make garments made to last generations. If the nomads roamed near farmers or trading posts, tea and tsampa were also traded.  

In the '80s they bartered brightly printed cotton cloth, cheap shoes and thermoses for butter and meat.

Now families have shrunk and time has become money. No one makes shoes or even clothing. The nearby towns are full of shops that sell cloth, ready made clothes and shoes of every size and style.


These days the town peddlers know there is a ready market for their goods at Norlha. They also know that on the 10th of every month 120 people get paid, and they arrive in their trucks to set up shop on the plain in front of the workshop, playing loud music to attract the children who have finished school at 4:00 and their parents once work is done for the day. On Saturdays, a blue camel, the blue three wheeler that is now the prime transport mode on the plateau, comes laden with children’s wear, also playing loud music. Norzin is usually the first to spot it and comes barging into the office with two or three friends, usually daughters of Norlha managers, asking for shopping money. Dechen asks her how much a pair of pants cost, multiplies it by two or three, and off they go.