Elizabeth Fontein from the Netherlands, is an APO working on management and conservation of natural resources in Mongolia.
"Previously, I worked as a junior consultant on sustainable energy use and climate change issues in the Netherlands, having finished an MSc in natural resources management. I enjoyed the work very much but wanted to be more directly involved with development and in an international context.
The APO briefing in Rome gave me a sense of how the Organization works. It was good to meet with other officers and create a bit of a network to help me deal with some of the practical issues of starting out.
As soon as I arrived in Mongolia I went on a field trip to see regional offices in the countryside. The vastness of nature here is as great as I expected it to be and the people are friendly and direct.
The herder families are living in solitude and no real community life exists. It’s an impressive lifestyle but will be also one of the major challenges our project has to deal with.
The forest in Mongolia covers approximately 175 200km2 and local herders use wood for fuel and construction. However, no legal rights of use exist for these people. This makes sustainable management of the Mongolian forests difficult and results in excessive logging, local disputes and an increase in forest fires.
The project I’m involved in aims to improve the legal framework and practical knowledge of the local forest community, working with the Government of Mongolia’s newly created forestry department.
The sun seems to shine every day here which makes the cold a little more bearable. The capital, Ulaanbaatar, is a meeting of two worlds: the ancient nomadic lifestyle and the booming mining industry which you see reflected in the amount of skyscrapers being constructed and the newest supersized family cars."