Over the last generation, Mongolian Nomads have had to cope with many political and cultural changes. For nomadic communities and herders, their traditional way of life has been disturbed and much of their ancestral knowledge and customs have been eroded.
Many nomads have adopted a more sedentary lifestyle – moving only once or twice a year, compared with four to five times in previous generations. This has led to overgrazing and degradation of the pastures. In addition, many families are keeping much larger herds, which is unsustainable. In some places, this has resulted in livestock numbers being over three times the sustainable limit. This has resulted in degradation of the local environment and huge pressures on natural resources and the people and livestock that depend on them.
Following three years of research funded by the Darwin Initiative, a new Nomad driven project has been developed under the Plan Vivo Standard, through a partnership between the University of Leicester and the Mongolian Society for Range Management. It is the first of its kind in Mongolia, creating performance based payments to herder families based on changes they are able to make which impact positively on the earths carbon levels. Much of this is about restoring the traditional nomadic way of life, reducing over grazing pressure on sensitive ecosystems.
It aims to enable these herder groups to alleviate pressure on local environments, enhance biodiversity, combat growing rural poverty, and to play a part in reducing carbon levels. Local herders are being financially compensated for protecting their local environment simply by adhering to traditional nomadic principles.
- The project works in 3 regions across Mongolia, in 3 Heseg, the traditional groups of herder families.
- Herders are being encouraged to have fewer livestock and to move more often. This gives pastures the opportunity to recover from grazing, and creates less competition for natural wildlife.
- To encourage and promote the balance of local ecosystems, like the Saxual Forests on the edge of the Gobi Desert, herders are now licencing the cutting of trees and working together to stop illegal hunting.
- The herders are also planting seedlings to compensate for the demands on woodland and increase soil carbon stocks.
- 98 households are implementing the project across an area of over 70,000 hectares.
- Payments are improving livelihoods and food security, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable in the Hesegs.
- By pooling resources and skills, the hesegs are able to sell finished products rather than raw materials, and fetch higher prices.
- Nomads are empowered by the value placed on their traditional way of life and by the co-creation of project plans with the project developers.