National Rangeland Forum: Caring for our homeland and rangelands

Media release, 05.10.2017

At the initiative of the Mongolian National Federation of Pasture-User Groups (MNFPUGs), the first-ever National Rangeland Forum was held in Ulaanbaatar between 27-28 September.

Mongolian National Rangeland Forum
The National Rangeland Forum has addressed key issues facing the pasture degradation and sustainable rangeland management in Mongolia. © SDC

The Forum aimed to create a national platform for all relevant stakeholders to exchange experiences and ideas, and promote best practices to ensure sustainable use of Mongolian rangelands.

More than 250 representatives from governmental and nongovernmental organisations, academic and research institutions, the private sector and the herding community took part in the landmark forum, themed “Caring for our Homeland and Rangelands”.

Key note presentations were given on the approaches that strengthen traditional user groups of herders in implementing inclusive and improved grazing management of common seasonal rangelands. Well-known rangeland ecologist Brandon Bestelmeyer from Jornada Experimental Rangeland Research Unit of USDA-ARS shared international best practices in combining science with the local knowledge. He also stressed the crucial role of nomadic livestock herding for the sustainable management of sensitive and fragile ecological system like the Mongolian rangelands.

Member of Parliament and member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Environment, Food and Agriculture, G. Temuulen, highlighted the need to address pasture degradation as a critical national priority and stressed the need to create a conducive legislation on rangelands.

“Although rangeland management issues are mentioned in some articles of the Constitution, the Law on Land, the Law on Land Fees and other legislation, this has proved to be ineffective in resolving the rangeland problems we are facing,” G. Temuulen said.

“Although there have been dozens of initiatives aimed at enacting a specific law on rangeland management that have been submitted to Parliament in the past two decades, it has not been realised. This indicates a lack of responsibility by the government and politicians, and a lack of capability in tackling priority issues. None of the sector specialists, herders or livestock is to blame. The government has not created a conducive legal environment and productivity-based economic incentives, and this is where the blame lies.”

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation’s Director of Cooperation Gabriella Spirli said 65 percent of Mongolia’s rangeland was degraded. “The situation is alarming as it directly threatens the right to live a decent life for current and future generations of Mongolian herders. The good news is that 90 percent of the degraded land has the capacity to naturally regenerate; however, this is only possible if grazing management is improved and livestock grazing pressure is reduced.”

Ts. Enkh-Amgalan, Coordinator of SDC’s Green Gold-Animal Health Project, highlighted the success of the approach to strengthen traditional user groups of nomadic herders in sustainable use of rangeland resources. To date, up to 40,000 herders in 130 soums throughout Mongolia have joined 1400 Pasture-User Groups (PUGs), and have collaboratively entered into rangeland-use agreements and established a responsibility system. There are also now 100 soum associations and nine aimag associations of PUGs, which have formed the Mongolian National Federation of PUGs. She said the project had also developed economic incentives for herders to facilitate market access, and created matching funds to encourage the establishment of herders’ savings and credit cooperatives.

During the forum, the draft law on rangeland was discussed among herders to reflect their opinions and concerns. After consultation with herders, the MNFPUGs presented the draft law to MP G.Temuulen, with the request of submitting the law to the parliament for approval.

The forum was welcomed by herders and PUG representatives. G. Enkhbold, head of the Khuvsgul aimag association of PUGs said: “The event is timely and much needed, given that it determined policy direction, allowed for implementation planning, respected elderly and honorary members, and helped to educate the younger generation, which motivated and made everyone proud of our traditional cultural heritage.”

Ts. Oyun, a herder from Undurshireet soum in Tuv aimag said: “We believe that herders will have a law on rangeland use and will stop having conflicts.”

The forum will be held annually, and the National Federation of PUGs will compete to host the International Rangeland Forum in 2024, which will help showcase Mongolia’s nomadic culture to the world and enable the country to share its experiences in rangeland management.

Key recommendations from the forum include, among others, the call for a Law on Rangeland, the establishment of a government agency in charge of rangleand issues and the capacity builing of key agencies, the creation of conducive environment for herder cooperatives, a certification scheme for herder's products produceds on sustainably used rangeland, and winter preparation.