Pasturelands - Mongolia's "Green Gold"

Project completed
Mounted Mongolian herdsman leading his flock of sheep through snow-covered plains.
Collective pasture management prevents the desertification of soils. © SDC DEZA

One third of Mongolia’s population, which is dependent on herding for survival, is faced with the problem of overgrazing. Empowering herders to collectively manage grazing resources is one of the main objectives of the Green Gold project, dedicated to the preservation of grazing areas, which are the green gold of Mongolia. The project improves the income of 100,000 semi-nomadic herder families.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Agriculture & food security

Agricultural development
Agricultural services & market
Agricultural research
Agriculture value-chain development (til 2016)
01.01.2013 - 31.12.2016
CHF  10’580’000

The main objective of the Green Gold project in Mongolia is to empower herders to collectively manage grazing resources. Four fifths of the country’s land area are used for grazing land, which is the backbone of Mongolia’s rural economy. However, most of these grazing areas are degraded. Climate change is of course contributing to desertification, but overgrazing is the primary cause.

Since Mongolia’s transition to democracy, which began in 1990, the community has been granted open access to the previously state-owned grazing areas. Livestock numbers in 2015 are at an all-time high, at 56 million head, and 170,000 households depend on herding for their livelihoods. This has led to soil degradation.

Autonomous herders’ associations

The SDC has contributed to establishing pasture user groups (PUGs). The PUGs develop grazing land management plans, which address a number of important issues, including pasture rehabilitation practices such as fencing of pastures, rotational grazing plans and set-aside of land, and disaster risk management. At the beginning of 2015, there were 1,500 PUGs nationwide, involving more than 53,000 herders.

The PUGs have provided evidence that they are able to organise themselves, and to develop and implement effective and viable pasture management plans. By the end of 2014, 113 PUGs had rehabilitated 3.4 million hectares of degraded land. They also fenced off 5,000 hectares of pastureland, thus significantly increasing fodder production.

Building capacities and creating sustainable income for 100,000 families

The project helped to strengthen the capacities of Mongolian herders who are currently discussing joint rules for pasture management with the local governments. These autonomous associations are, in fact, increasingly recognised by local Mongolian authorities who give them permission to manage pastures, and provide them with technical advice and financial support. Some of the PUGs have also established revolving funds – loans are repaid in increments over time based on the income of members – to finance new wells, fence and irrigate hay fields, and contribute to the training of herders.

Preserving and maintaining ecosystems provides the essential basis for creating sustainable income for herders. The project thus contributes to the improvement of the livelihood of 100,000 semi-nomadic herder families in western Mongolia. One of the project objectives is to improve market access for herders by identifying promising niches for products such as high-quality camel or yak wool.