With climate change and desertification threatening their livelihood, herders form collectives to manage resources.
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia – In a country where desertification, extreme weather patterns and overburdened pastures are becoming the norm, the nomadic livestock herders of Mongolia are mobilising at the community level to adapt to climate change.
Mongolia has no comprehensive national regulations on pasture land management, which makes it difficult to address the environmental issues on a national level. In the absence of such policies, some Mongolian herders have taken it upon themselves to come up with solutions.
Families are banding together to form work collectives to implement regulations that will mitigate their impact on the environment and create better disaster preparedness. In some quarters, these work collectives, called pasture user groups, or PUGs, are also helping to increase household incomes.
The current environmental state and livestock production methods are proving unsustainable, says Purevjav Gomboluudev, the head of the climate section at the Information and Research Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment, a national agency
“Mongolia tends to rely heavily on the summer season for growing fodder and preparing livestock feed,” he says. “But desertification, over-grazing and poor land management is leading to ill-prepared winters.”
These harsh winters, called “dzud” in Mongolian, “ultimately disrupt the national economy,” says the head of pasture land management in the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry, Byambadorj N.
This past winter claimed some 1.1 million head of livestock, forcing the Mongolian government to declare a state of national emergency. While the “dzud” of 2009 – 2010, wiped out 20 percent of the entire nation’s herds, worth an estimated 4 percent of the GDP.
Today, to be better prepared for the ravages of climate change, PUGs are pooling labour and resources to grow fodder, collect and sell yak wool, manage grazing schedules and rehabilitate valuable grasslands