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Mongolians Team Up to Preserve Huge, Grassy Commons

Mongolians Team Up to Preserve Huge, Grassy Commons

 

Written by Keith Goetzman, the Utne Reader

Mongolia has an outsized reputation for vast emptiness, but in fact there are plenty of creatures living there, including 2.7 million people and the 35 million horses, cattle, sheep, goats, and camels that they keep. All those pasturing animals leave a large ecological hoofprint, reports Ronnie Vernooy in Solutions Journal, and climate change is disrupting the weather patterns that sustain the country’s many nomadic herders.

A new program, though, is pointing the way toward a more sustainable future, using the concept of the commons as a way to share resources—in this case, those seemingly endless pasturelands. Writes Vernooy:

The government has begun to respond to the threat to herders and their way of life. In a number of regions across the country, herders, in collaboration with local governments and researchers, and supported by a number of new policy measures and laws, are practicing comanagement, a form of adaptive management that builds community resilience.

The concept has been popularized by the academic and activist H. Ykhanbai. … Ykhanbai was uniquely suited to the task: raised in a herder family in the far-away Altai Mountains, he attended the University of St. Petersburg, Russia, where he studied Garrett Hardin on the “tragedy of the commons” and Elinor Ostrom on collective action. Ykhanbai understood that pastures in Mongolia are a common pool resource shared by many users, while private ownership of livestock allows herders to become real managers of their own businesses. Sustainable management of herds therefore depends on the carrying capacity of pastures and on the interactions between neighboring herders who rely on the same resources.

The Mongolians herders’ tactics include reducing herd size to prevent pasture degradation and desertification caused by overgrazing; moving camps at different times to adapt to weather shifts; diversifying their income; and growing their own potatoes and vegetables. Comanagement pilot projects have been launched in several areas of the country with promising results, and boosters hope the practices may be adapted to neighboring Central Asian countries including Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. And, Vernooy suggests, “China could learn a lesson or two.”

This post was originally published by the Utne Reader.

 

Related Stories:

Cooperation is Saving Mongolia’s Snow Leopards

New 7 Wonders of Nature

5 Things You Need to Know About Wildlife Corridors

 

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Photo from Julyinireland via flickr

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79 comments

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1:55PM PST on Dec 13, 2012

Sounds good, thank you.

1:54PM PST on Dec 13, 2012

Sounds good, thank you.

9:02AM PDT on Jul 15, 2012

Grazie per l'articolo.

4:34PM PST on Dec 1, 2011

I hope that the comanagement will work well.

3:36PM PST on Dec 1, 2011

Good for them. I wish them the best. Thanks.

5:09AM PST on Dec 1, 2011

Thanks for the article.

9:14PM PST on Nov 29, 2011

Thank you for this.

5:37PM PST on Nov 29, 2011

Reducing herd size? How do they plan on doing this?

4:19PM PST on Nov 29, 2011

Thanks for the info.

8:39AM PST on Nov 28, 2011

Great!

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