FAO in Mongolia

Sustainable Livestock is no longer an option


Sustainable Livestock is no longer an option but an imperative. One has to excuse the tricky title but in times of information overload, some topics need a little push-up.

Nobody who had a glimpse of Mongolia would deny the critical role livestock plays for the Mongolian people especially concerning food and nutrition security, livelihoods as well as identify and cultural heritage. Mongolia is unique and livestock is rightly considered part of the nation's wealth and is even subject to state protection under the country's constitution. It is also a fact however that current systems are clearly not working but rather cause a downward spiral of increasing livestock numbers and resource degradation. When we imagine a Mongolian ger built on the three pillars of sustainability, namely environmental, social and economic pillars, one must admit: Many Mongolian gers stand on a shaky ground. So, how to reverse the current decline and make Mongolia’s livestock sector sustainable again?

Luckily, there are many committed entities and stakeholders supporting the Mongolian livestock sector. Often however, these stakeholders are unaware of each other’s activities. Imagine if one person working on livestock could easily verify what is going on in Mongolia on livestock to then accordingly build a project to strategically fill the gaps? That would avoid overlaps, opens the door for collaboration and ultimately leads to better resource efficiency. What may seem simple in words is actually quite a challenge in practice. The livestock sector is comprised of multiple stakeholders from various background and there is a plethora of cross-cutting challenges that require collaboration. Think of land degradation, water scarcity, lack of young herder generation, climate change, market volatility, natural disasters, internal migration, etc. How could a single ministry or entity manage these challenges?

To address the aforementioned challenges, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Light Industry (MoFALI) takes various actions among which is also a common framework for sustainable livestock, called the Action Plan of the Mongolian Agenda for Sustainable Livestock. In short: MASL. The plan was approved by the minister in June 2018 and aims high at ‘supporting the sustainable development of the Mongolian livestock sector as economically efficient while implementing sustainable pastureland management, enhancing food security and safety and social inclusiveness, and strengthening stakeholder partnerships and participation.’

MASL has a competitive advantage since it is not a project with a predetermined budget or timeline. It can thus adopt to the fast-changing environment (from both environmental and donor perspective) and help stakeholders to streamline activities more strategically and timely within an existing framework. Furthermore, livestock sustainability is not only a Mongolian concern but also a global one. Therefore, MASL has been developed in alignment with the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock (GASL) and the UN Agenda 2030 and can hence be directly measured against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As of today, MoFALI together with FAO drive MASL and have recently organized a technical meeting involving 15 different entities that worked together on joint activities relevant to MASL. More details on this event are available at http://www.fao.org/mongolia/news/detail-events/en/c/1198759/ and in a rather comprehensive meeting report in Mongolian and English language here. 

In the long run, MASL hopes at becoming a widely used coordination tool that can ultimately facilitate dialogue, generate evidence and advocate practice and policy change in the Mongolian livestock sector. A recent promising activity has been initiated by Mercy Corps and a Mongolian NGO on Sustainable Agriculture Research and Development. They worked with a particular soum in Zavkhan aimag on a livestock strategy that is largely based on MASL. As such, this soum may become a ‘MASL model soum’ and help translate the often high-level actions from MASL into a local perspective. FAO is in discussion with both partners and the local government to potentially develop a curriculum that aims at translating MASL to local herder level. Such curriculum could then be the basis for upscaling workshops that meet local needs and yet support high-level framework such as MASL.

A little heads-up: MASL will soon take part in the next annual GASL Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Meeting (September, USA) through representation of Mongolia by Mr. T. Jambaltseren, Acting State Secretary and Director General of the State Administration and Management department. On that occasion, MASL can show progress and exchange information with other countries around the globe facing similar issues. FAO is excited to support this journey and we will keep you posted on the outcomes of this event.

If you are interested in joining the MASL efforts, please contact Mr. Munkhnasan Tsevegmed ([email protected]), Ms. Otgontuya Sukhbaatar ([email protected]). Any feedback to this article is more than welcome and can be sent to Mr. Martin Heilmann ([email protected]).