By: B. Erdenebileg, National Project Coordinator, ENSURE project
As of 2019, Mongolia’s livestock number (70.9 million) exceeded the pasture carrying capacity by 33 million sheep equivalent heads, exceeded by 2-7 times in most aimags, and more than 70 percent of pastureland is degraded overall. These numbers indicate that the continuously increasing grazing pressure truly highlight the need for urgent and concrete actions in addressing the challenges.
Overgrazing mainly caused by increased herd size is one of the major causes of the issues such as environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, and declining quality of the livestock in Mongolia. As herders’ livelihood heavily rely on the income generated from the livestock, it is challenging to persuade them reduce or control the livestock number.
To address these pressing issues and challenges, our project “Ensuring Sustainability and Resilience of Green Landscape in Mongolia”, funded by the Global Environmental Facility and jointly implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Ministry of Agriculture, and Light Industry and UNDP, has initiated Sustainable Pasture management initiative in 13 soums of 4 aimags of Khangai mountains and southern Gobi represented by Gobi Altai, Bayankhongor, Arkhangai and Zavkhan, since 2019 to reduce herd size in 300 thousand ha pasture as one of the outcome.
The pilot Ulziit soum of Arkhangai aimag which comprised of 28 herder groups have endeavored a strong and concrete results under the program by reducing their livestock number by 21.4 percent without loss of income in 2020 compared to non-intervened herders in the same soum that saw decrease of only 5.6 percent and soum total of 8%.
These outcomes are the concrete evidence that the right incentives and mechanisms including pastureland use agreements (PUA) between herder groups, soum governors, and Livestock Risk Management Fund (LRMF) to stimulate livestock sales and finance herders’ activities to mitigate pressure on pastureland, can achieve such concrete results.
The project team organized face to face meeting with all herder households in selected soums to provide guidance, explaining the project objectives to the herders about the benefits and ways to access them. As a result, around 15% of herders in project areas have voluntarily joined the project pasture management initiatives with clear understanding of benefits as well as responsibilities including the herd size reduction and voluntary contributions to LRMF.
To date, 227 herder groups have signed 5 to 15-year PUAs to reduce the herd size slowly around 5% annual rate to avoid damaging livestock incomes covering pasture of more than 600 thousand ha doubling the project’s initial target.
Though herders are already aware of the pasture degradation as well as declining livestock quality, they were largely uninformed on ways to change their current practices to a more sustainable approach. We learned that herders were more than willing to join the initiative once they realize the possibilities to reduce their livestock number without losing an income while increasing the quality of the livestock.
UNDP is pleased to have had the opportunity to share our lessons learned with the representatives of the relevant ministries and support the Government of Mongolia’s effort addressing overgrazing issue. Mongolia has been making steady progress towards addressing these challenges in 2020 with the passing of livestock taxing law by the Parliament and renewed selection criteria by the Government on awarding herder champions based on their achievement towards environment friendly herding practice.
As we move forward, I am hopeful that the lessons we are learning and the concrete results we are seeing with our project could be replicated nationwide with many more voluntarily signing up to this initiative.
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