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FAO honours model farmer from Mongolia

16/10/2009 Mongolia

Bangkok − Today, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presented FAO awards to five Asian farmers from Fiji, India, Indonesia, Mongolia and Thailand.

Deleg Tsendsuren
A model community forester from Mongolia

Few people have done more to turn Mongolia green, and give people jobs in the process, than Tsendsuren Deleg. Mongolia is known for its broad expanse of steppes, where herdsmen roam in a struggle for survival. Fifty seven years ago, Tsendsuren Deleg was born to one such herdsman. She knows how hard life can be on the great plains, where the harsh dry climate can make finding food, especially fruits and vegetables, a challenge.

Tsendsuren’s father was a popular man in his community, and so he was selected to represent them in parliament. As a representative he had the means to provide his daughter with an education. Tsendsuren chose to attend the Agricultural University and study forest engineering because, she says, “I wanted to be close to nature. I feel peaceful and serene when I am in the forest.’’

Only about 10 percent of Mongolia, however, was forested. Without forests to serve as watersheds, the land was not fertile enough for people to grow the fruits and vegetables they needed for a healthy diet. So, Tsendsuren Deleg, now working as a government Forestry official, established the first angiosperm (leaf) tree nurseries in Mongolia. Each year, her nurseries are responsible for planting 300 000 aspen and 250 000 elm trees, along with 30 000 sea buckthorn and blueberry plants.

Before she founded her nurseries, people would have to journey to the forests and cut saplings to bring back if they wanted to plant trees on their land. That could be difficult or impossible for many people.

Not only did her nurseries contribute to the greening of Mongolia, which led to people improving their diets and becoming healthier, they provided jobs for the unemployed.

About ten years ago, Mongolia shifted to a market economy. Government cut backs meant Tsendsuren Deleg had to enter the private sector. She started a successful fruit and vegetable plantation, once again hiring unemployed people as workers. And as a private citizen she still contributed to regenerating the country’s forests.

She and her workers volunteered to participate in the government’s “Green Belt” program, planting nearly 30,000 sea buckthorn, elm and aspen trees in Khovd province. More than 22 tons of vegetables have been harvested from that green zone.

“We have a saying in Mongolia,’’ says Tsendsuren Deleg, “that planting a single tree is the same as lighting a thousand candles for the Buddha. I’m proud to be leaving something for the next generation.’’

Undoubtedly, Mongolia’s next generation will be thankful for, and proud of, the vision, the efforts and the dedication of Tsendsuren Deleg.

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