Initially Tibetan Healing Fund project sites were located mainly in the Tso-Ngon Province also formerly known as Amdo (Ch: Qinghai); in 2006, THF expanded to other Tibetan regions of Kham and U-Tsang also known as Gansu, Sichuan, Yunnan Provinces and the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). Projects are located in rural and nomadic regions. Communities in these areas are mainly pastoral; farming and herding livestock drive the economy.
Geographically, Tibet evokes images of soaring snow covered mountains, large valleys filled with yaks and sheep. The Tibetan plateau is the headwaters of five of the most important rivers in Asia: the Ganges, Mekong, Yellow, Yangtze and Brahmaputra. Any changes to the movement, distribution, and quality of water on the Tibetan plateau will have effects to hundreds of millions of people.
The Tibetan region is known to be extensive in many natural resources but is largely inaccessible and unused. Particularly, those natural resources including petroleum, lead, chromium, zinc, copper, coal and iron. Only borax, salt, and potash (taken from the lakes in the Plateau of Tibet) are produced in significant amounts. Aside from mineral extraction and construction industries, which are dominated by the Han Chinese, the Tibetan economy is mainly pastoral; farming and herding drive the economy. The majority of the Tibetans (80%) live in the remote, rural areas. Herders, many of whom are nomadic, raise yaks, goats, sheep, horses, and mules in the mountain and plateau pastures. Farmland is limited in area and the growing season is short. Summers are short and dry and winters are long and cold. There is very little arable land available and the main crops grown are barley, wheat, buckwheat, rye, potatoes, rapeseed and assorted vegetables. An additional source of income in Tso-Ngon Province (Ch: Qinghai) is the caterpillar fungus or Cordyceps, which grow on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Cordyceps is widely used in Chinese medicine and is gaining popularity in the West.
The grasslands of the Tibetan Plateau are a unique environment but significant and potentially irreversible erosion is increasing on the grasslands. Growing degradation of the Tibetan Plateau grasslands is threatening the traditional lifestyle of Tibetan herders and farmers. Livestock production on the vast grasslands of the Tibetan Plateau forms the foundation of the Tibetan farm economy and herders’ lives. The decrease in livestock and grasslands is gradually undermining the traditional Tibetans’ way of like that has sustained them for thousands of years. Recently many families have migrated far from their native pasture; others are now being relocated by the government to new permanent settlements.