Belgium supports FAO to safeguard livestock-based livelihoods in Mongolia against potential dzud in drought-affected pastoral areas

Belgium supports FAO to safeguard livestock-based livelihoods in Mongolia against potential dzud in drought-affected pastoral areas


Over the summer of 2017, Mongolia experienced a prolonged drought, affecting 80 percent of key agricultural areas and pastoral rangelands. As a result, the country suffered from below-average harvests for both wheat and fodder, which are critical for people’s livelihoods as well as the establishment of feed stocks so as to ensure the survival of livestock during harsh winters.

Almost one-third of Mongolia’s population relies on herding as their main source of livelihood, which is an important driver of the country’s economy. A total of 61.5 million livestock were reported in the country (2016) ‒ the most in recorded history ‒ and with a population of just over 3 million, this means nearly 20 livestock per person. However, the impact of the 2017 drought combined with the harsh winter seasons presents serious concerns.

The poor availability of feed has caused livestock to have below-average body conditions. Due to limited grazing capacity, livestock were not able to develop fat or core muscle strength, which are critical to survive the winter. Hay reserves are reported only to last until the end of 2017.

Further compounding the situation is the potential risk of dzud ‒ extremely snowy winters in Mongolia with freezing temperatures. In early November 2017, the Government of Mongolia warned about the upcoming winter season, highlighting areas in the central and western parts of the country that were at risk of dzud conditions. Preliminary information estimates that nearly 161 000 herders will be affected along with over 1 114 000 sheep forage units.

In response, thanks to the Belgian contribution, through the Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation ActivitiesEarly Warning Early Action window, FAO was able to formulate a project ahead of dzud. The intervention aims to protect the livestock of 500 vulnerable herder families (1 800 people) in areas highly at risk of dzud.

The project focuses on two early actions: (i) destocking and (ii) prepositioning fodder kits. This will contribute to addressing both the short- and long-term needs of vulnerable herders. Destocking and meat distribution to vulnerable communities provides an injection of cash into the communities allowing them to cover immediate needs. Beneficiaries are also provided with fodder and nutrient supplements during the peak of the winter season to support breeding and yearling stock.

FAO collaborates closely with government agencies, civil society, and affected communities to protect the livelihoods of hundreds of herders.