Officially known as the Swiss Confederation, Switzerland is a country in south-central Europe. The country has an area of about 15,940 square miles of which 4.2% is covered with water. As of 2018, the country had a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of around $709 billion and a purchasing power parity (PPP) of about $551 billion. A number of things such as natural resources, technology, and a highly skilled population drive this highly advanced economy. Some of the natural resources in Switzerland include land for agriculture, tourist attractions, and water.
Agriculture in Switzerland
The agricultural sector, which uses about a third of the total land area of Switzerland, is highly protected by the government. Agriculture is heavily protected despite the fact that the soil variation in Switzerland makes it difficult to carry out large-scale farming. The protection of the government is mostly observed in the heavy subsidization of the sector. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that the country has subsidized at least 70% of the sector. In comparison, other countries in the European Union have subsidized an average of only 35%. The protection is aimed towards the improvement of domestic production, which caters for local consumption and exportation.
Some of the plants grown in the country include grains, vegetables, vineyards, fruits, and fodder. Mostly though, the farmers grow both grain and grass in a bid to fully utilize the land. Despite these land challenges, the sector accounts for around 60% of the local demand for food in Switzerland. Grain is mostly produced in the western side of Mittelland close to the Jura Mountains, which is an area that receives little rainfall. The more humid areas, such as Sankt Gallen and Thurgau, are mostly utilized for the growth of fruits and fodder. Berries, fruits, and vegetables are mostly grown in areas with plenty of irrigation and sunshine such as the Canton of Valais.
Areas such as Geneva, Biel, and Neuchâtel are mostly used for viticulture (the growth and harvesting of grapes). Valais also has some of the largest tracts of vineyards. However, the largest vineyards are located on Lake Geneva’s southern shore. In one year, the vineyards have the capacity of producing around 33 million gallons of wine.
Farmers in the whole of Switzerland also practice livestock farming. Most of the livestock farming is practiced in the pre-Alps and the Mitteland regions. Livestock is responsible for producing a wide array of products that are consumed all over Europe. Some of the products include milk, milk chocolate, yogurt, cheese, and butter. The sector is quite lucrative as it accounts for at least two-thirds of the total income from agriculture.
Tourism in Switzerland
Tourism is also a crucial sector due to the abundance of a number of natural attractions that draw people from all over the world. One such attraction is the Swiss Alps, which are perfect for activities like mountaineering and skiing. The Alpine climate in the country is also highly appealing to a huge number of people. Some of the most popular natural tourist attractions include the likes of the Rhine Falls, the Berne Bear exhibit, and the Zoo Basel. In 2016, the sector accounted for about 2.6% of the nation’s GDP.
In a bid to develop the sector, the country has made significant investments in order to improve the hotel as well as the transport sector. As of 2010, the total amount of money associated with the sector (including tourism transport) amounted to a whopping $35 billion. Based on this, it is easy to see how the sector provides at least 140,000 people in the country with full-time employment. In 2010, the sector managed to contribute about $550 billion (2.9%) to the country’s GDP. Most of the hotels in the country (about 14%) are located in the Canton of Grisons while Valais and Eastern Switzerland each have 12% of the hotels in the country.
Energy Production in Switzerland
The country boasts of a few natural resources that can produce energy. However, Switzerland has massive amounts of water, which is mainly used in the production of hydropower and domestic consumption. Most of the water comes from the nearby Alps from sources like melting glaciers and precipitation. This significant water resource has been stored in the countries many lakes. Industrially, the water is used for the production of hydropower, which is an endeavor that is aided by the natural terrain of the country. The terrain is hilly thus allowing rivers to flow easily at high velocities.
Almost all of the energy needs in the country are met by renewable sources with hydropower contributing the biggest share. In recent times, hydropower has been accounting for well over half of the energy needs in Switzerland. The contribution of hydropower has gone down considerably compared to the 1970s when it accounted for close to 90% of domestic needs. Over the years, the contribution has been steadily reducing due to the adoption of other energy sources such as solar and nuclear energy.
Most of the hydropower is produced in the Canton of Valais, which is a region that has the most capacity in Switzerland. The canton is also responsible for consuming a lot of electricity due to the presence of several aluminum industries. Since the country is not fully sustaining, it ends up importing a little energy in the form of petroleum and nuclear energy to supplement the need.
Forests in Switzerland
Forests cover about a third of the total land area in Switzerland. The country has been extremely active in protecting its forest cover due to its importance in things like providing watershed functions, recreation, wildlife support, and others. The forest industry is small and controlled in a manner that provides income to farmers sustainably. Unfortunately, air pollution has severely damaged about a fifth of the forest cover. In these areas, stakeholders have embarked on rehabilitation and recovery efforts. Despite these efforts, experts have to deal with a number of problems like climate change and pests.