THE POTENTIAL FOR HERDING households to become independent, privately-operating units is currently being explored in Mongolia. But improving the living standards of herders and at the same time enabling them to remain 'valley keepers', or custodians of their local environment, will not be achieved by focusing exclusively on households as single units with private herds. In fact, herding households have never been as individualistic as at present, not even prior to the 1921 Revolution. They formed collective units of ownership within which they were able to decide some of their own socio-economic problems.
The problems facing herders need to be addressed through multidisciplinary research capable of long-term projection. Privatization in contemporary Mongolia has been carried out without detailed research. It has been limited to redistributing the assets of pastoral collectives to existing herders and other individual householders. The intended result of the privatization programme is that herders will operate as individual units, independent of each other. This would run counter to the herders' own interests and would turn back the clock several centuries. Efforts to increase herders' incomes and improve their living conditions by means of better labour organization and easing of social problems requires the reversal of these backward steps.
Research has shown that policy measures not in accordance with our livestock farming traditions are inappropriate. It is important to remember the lessons learned from earlier periods. A revolution does not mean that everything which existed previously should be ignored. The scientifically-groundless direction of current policies could have serious consequences. We should pay more attention to asking what can be changed and how. In order to understand how Mongolian pastoral livestock husbandry could be reorganized, a programme of research should be carried out.