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Grazing lands at risk for desertification? The solution in Mongolia

Innovation / -

I pascoli della Mongolia sono la principale causa di degrado del terreno

Vast stretches of lands meant for grazing are degrading. This is why the Mongolian Ministry of Industry and Agriculture has come up with a plan (called the Green Gold Project) that has positive effects on food safety.

Herds that graze on immense, limitless fields certainly present no problems. But if we find ourselves in Mongolia, where vast stretches are at risk of desertification, then we need to intervene, as the Ministry of Industry and Agriculture has done. Over 140 thousand livestock farmers who live in these regions are affected. Today over 70% of grazing lands are considered to be in such a state of degradation that they can no longer guarantee survival for the livestock in the years to come. This is partly due to climate change and to the lack of special laws. But the program that has been introduced (the Green Gold Project) allows specific policies to be identified that help the country's leading industry and ensure the populations' food safety – thanks to the help of the authorities, the nomadic shepherds and the animals.
Fewer grazing lands for everyone
Although there were initial difficulties in reaching the nomadic shepherds and convincing them to seek solutions, the plan has been successfully implemented. The political decisions that were taken address several points: first, the introduction of a plan for grazing lands, which identifies the areas at risk for desertification; this is accompanied by the obligation to block the free circulation of livestock during certain periods of the year. In addition, an important measure was included to reduce the number of animals in the herds. To complete the initiative, the government decided to provide financial assistance to families who participate in the plan. This was made necessary by bitterly cold winters in recent years that caused the death of many animals, along with significant losses for the livestock farmers.
Improved productivity
The results can be summarized as follows: better management of the herds has led to economic increases for the shepherds. A rise in productivity for the livestock farmers has made them all the more determined to participate in the program. In the almost seven years since the program began, over 3 million hectares have been returned to grazing use. One of the most successful outcomes includes the creation of 66 associations organised by the shepherds (PUGs), which have gained increasing recognition from the government and allow the beneficiaries of government subsidies to be accurately identified. The plan also foresees monitoring of the lands in line with international indicators and standards. 


Five questions for Mofa. In Mongolia nomadic herders become the environmental guardians of their rangelands

Innovation / -

Distese a rischio desertificazione. Il Moia interviene con efficacia

The Green Gold Project has allowed us to empower herders to preserve rangelands at risk of desertification. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (Mofa) of Mongolia explains the program put in place and the benefits derived from it.

At Expo Milano 2015, visitors will be made aware of Mofa of Mongolia project thanks to the video screened in Pavilion Zero. What message would you like to convey with your approach to the issue of food security?
Herder families in Mongolia have been empowered with the recognition of their role in ensuring sustainable use of their traditional rangelands, which means recognizing their capacity as not only as a user, but also as environmental steward of their lands. Working to create an environmental stewardship to conserve and cherish their homeland, herder families have been enabled to restore their traditional systems in collective rangeland management and halt its degradation.
What difficulties have you encountered while working on your project? How did you overcome them?
There has been a lack of cooperation and thus gap and mistrust created between the nomadic herding community and local government stakeholders. Therefore the Green Gold Project had to spend more time than planned on the creation socially conducive atmosphere and took the role of mediator and catalyst to bring two parties together to work through the problems and find win-win solutions jointly.
Since the submission date, how has your project developed to date?
Green Gold has extended its support to over 1.000 new Pasture User Groups (PUGs), involving about 40.000 nomadic herder households, and together with marketing cooperatives established by these PUGs, we are working to a create sustainable livestock production code of practices that includes maintaining healthy rangelands as an integral element of the code. This will result in a future where herders will receive remuneration for their contribution to maintain environmental integrity.
What developments do you expect in the long term for your idea?
Experience shows that it is not effective to address rangeland management issues without economic incentives.  Leaders of the Pasture User Groups see many possibilities in the marketing cooperatives to link opportunities to increase income with natural resource management objectives.  The Green Gold Project is supporting PUGs to capitalize on existing and emerging marketing opportunities of livestock products.
Do you intend to replicate the project in other countries or in other contexts?
The Green Gold Project has been asked to share its experiences from neighbouring countries with similar social and ecological context to Mongolia, such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. There has been a special interest on work in mobilization and in empowering the herder community themselves to ensure their participation in sustainable rangeland management practices and promoting their role of environmental stewardship.

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