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Mongolia moves forward on protecting its rangelands

Full house with over 850 participants from 331 soums
08/05/2019

Over 850 participants came together in the parliament house on 7th of May to discuss how to improve the regulatory environment for rangeland use and protection. The national consultation was jointly organized by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry (MoFALI), the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment, Food and Agriculture, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Part of the financial support for consultation was received from the Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture and is gratefully acknowledged.

The event was timely given the urgency to tackle ongoing degradation of rangeland, which has reached 57 percent of total land including ten percent beyond recovery according to the latest national rangeland health assessment. As rangeland degrades, the lives of 200,000 herder families are increasingly at stake, comprising 70 percent of Mongolia’s rural population that rely on rangeland-based livestock herding. Not to mention the potential depletion of a number of related resources including water, food and animal feed, biodiversity of plants and wildlife, etc.

The cornerstone of the consultation was the new draft law on rangeland that responds to a long history of requests and recommendations from herders and various national and international entities to fill the legal gap of unsustainable rangeland use. 

The meeting was opened by Mr. G. Zandanshatar, Chairman of Secretariat of the State Great Khural (Parliament) of Mongolia, Vinod Ahuja, FAO Representative in Mongolia and Gabriella Spirli, Director of Cooperation, SDC Mongolia. The special guests of this consultation however were those working at grassroots level, namely over 720 herders and representatives from all 21 aimags and 331 soums of Mongolia.

The morning session was chaired by Mr. L. Eldev-Ochir, Member of the Parliament and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment, Food and Agriculture. The topics focused on the current state of rangeland health in Mongolia, the concept of the new law and the experiences made at local level with Pasture User Groups of herders, Rangeland Use Agreement and its enforcement and monitoring tools.

Mr. Ch. Ulaan, Minister of MoFALI, chaired the afternoon session, which was all about the growing number of animals exceeding the carrying capacity of rangelands, best practices and lessons learned at local level on accountability systems and benefits of rangeland risk funds.

There was strong common agreement about the need for the law and participants shared positive experiences at local level particularly with SDC’s Green Gold-Animal Health project. Several herders raised the importance of fair collection and utilization of related grazing fees at soum level. Participants furthermore highlighted to apply a holistic approach to rangeland protection taking also into account the impact of irresponsible mining activities, road construction and tourism. A main concern raised by many herders is the engagement of young generations in herding. Moreover, many highlighted the opportunities in ecologically friendly and organic farming as well as intensification of livestock production along with continuous improvement of veterinary services to improve access to domestic and foreign markets.

Despite a tight schedule, the event allowed over 80 herders to voice their opinions directly during the discussions and further allowed each participant to share additional comments through a written survey. Results gathered from the event are used to finalize draft recommendations that were presented in plenary and endorsed by a vast majority.

This event truly marks a milestone in Mongolia’s role as leader in promoting rangeland and livestock sustainability. FAO and SDC are grateful for the support from herders and involved agencies for this well run and rich consultation. We look forward to the law submission to the parliament as a crucial step towards preserving Mongolian rangeland for the benefit of current and future generations.