Pasture Land – The Mongolian Life Support System is Rapidly Shrinking

21 April, 2023

Not only Yondon, Ganaa, Garid and the herders in the radio drama series “Love and Greed in the Valley of the Cashmere Goats” are worried about pasture degradation. In a 13 min “Selfie Talk” on their Facebook page “Shrinking Mongolia”, the Mongolian National Federation of Pasture User Groups (MNFPUG) has recently invited experts, practitioners, actors and herders to talk about the real cause of pasture land degradation and what to do about it.

“Don’t sit back and think of the grazing issue as something that doesn’t concern you … Every moment that passes without your attention, our land is becoming a desert and shrinking day by day. Please join the #Shrinking Mongolia campaign to protect our grasslands, which are inseparable from the air we breathe, the food we eat, our daily consumption, and a healthy life” states the campaign to encourage everyone to pay attention to the current situation. Researchers have determined that there are many factors that contribute to the degradation of pastures, most of them caused by human practices, and started talking about legal regulations more than 20 years ago. Unfortunately, no action has been taken by the government but the number of livestock, especially cashmere goats, has increased over the years.

According to the National Statistical Office, the livestock population in Mongolia was around 24,7 million in 1990, while it was around 71 million in 2019. At the same time, the idealized but unsustainable image of the ’1,000 animal herder’ is still  dominant business model. To make things worse, the overgrazing of pasture lands have been aggravated by climate change, which affects about 75% of Mongolia’s territory, and an estimated 160,000 nomadic herder families in 20 out of 21 Mongolian provinces.

As pastures are the source of life not only for herders but for all of Mongolia, pastoralists in some provinces have taken up initiatives on their own. On the MNFPUG website “Green Mongolia”, reports can be found on Responsible Nomads Code of Practice or Resilience-based Rangeland Management. Furthermore, Science-led upgrading of soum livestock focuses on the upgrading soum livestock productivity along with increased fodder supply, and providing training and advice to herders and livestock enterprises to adjust the number of livestock to the carrying capacity of natural pastures. The reduction of herds is often achieved through the sale of livestock for meat at growing age – as is also recommended in the context of the “Love and Greed” radio drama.