Could a new law help nomadic herders in Mongolia?

Man’s happiness lies in an empty field, according to the old Mongolian proverb, and the country’s vast grasslands have certainly sustained its nomadic heritage for centuries. But when the open field is increasingly bare because of overgrazing, higher temperatures and droughts, it is little wonder that thousands of men, women and children move to the city every year. Degraded land that has lost its fertility keeps herders trapped in a vicious cycle: with less pasture to graze their animals, they lose their stock and their income. And in response, many families compensate for these losses by increasing their herd size, putting even more demand on the already vulnerable land. A recent health assessment of Mongolia’s national rangelands, which makes up more than 80 percent of its territory, found 65 percent was degraded. Meanwhile, the number of livestock in Mongolia has reached record highs of more than 65 million. Unless urgent measures are taken swiftly, Mongolia risks losing some 25 million hectares of grassland to desertification, putting national food safety and security at risk, and causing more herders to descend into poverty.

But all is not lost. The same recent assessment also found that 90 percent of these degraded rangelands still maintain the natural capacity to regenerate themselves, if grazing pressure is reduced. We believe that a rangeland protection law, which is currently progressing in Mongolia, offers the best chance to regulate the use of public and open access rangeland to support the recovery of both the precious steppe and its herders.

Firstly, the legislation would create a specific and clear regulatory environment for traditional groups of herders who share the same seasonal rangelands. The main challenge that has kept such a law on hold for more than two decades has been the question of how to ensure the mobility of the herders while still demarcating the boundaries of grazing lands for which they are responsible. Unlike in intensive livestock systems, groups of herder families share four seasonal rangelands and it is a collective responsibility to maintain the health of this land. An initiative called the Green Gold and Animal Health Project, jointly led by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Government of Mongolia, has been supporting and developing traditional collective herder groups and empowering them to establish rangeland use agreements with local governments.

НИЙТЭЛСЭН: 2018-06-18 04:01:44