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How Mongolia is making its ancient art of herding sustainable and profitable

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 June, 2018, 6:16pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 5:31pm

In the past 25 years, Mongolia’s GDP has tripled, poverty has fallen and education has improved, allowing us to become a middle-income country.

This is due, in part, to the livestock sector – one of our oldest economic sectors – which contributes around 15 per cent of gross domestic product, and still holds untapped potential.

But climate change, urban migration and barriers to export have created new challenges. Mongolia needs a long-term strategy to properly capitalise on opportunities for growth.

Hosting this year’s meeting of the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock (GASL), in Ulan Bator from June 11-15, is an important moment for Mongolia and its move towards sustainable herding.

Livestock numbers have surpassed 65 million but pasture quality – and productivity – has suffered. To rejuvenate animal farming for the millions of nomadic families trying to uphold their way of life requires commitment to greater sustainability.

We have established the Mongolian Agenda for Sustainable Livestock, supported by the GASL, to introduce sustainable development principles for livestock and herders.

Meanwhile, the Mongolian Livestock programme sets out specific environmental standards widely accepted by scientists. This includes laws to protect our rangelands as well as biodiversity, wildlife and landscape features. A healthy environment means healthy animals and healthy incomes. We are also working to improve access to markets, both domestic and international.

Under our “Industrialisation 21:100” programme to establish 100 processing plants in 21 provinces for products including meat, milk and cashmere, herders will be able to better access markets. Finally, competing on an international level also means meeting international standards, and this means ensuring the safety of our produce.

Mongolia plans to set up a general veterinary authority and produce livestock vaccines to help improve health and safety in the livestock and livestock products sector.

Meanwhile, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation is helping to establish disease-free zones for beef and lamb. A government delegation has visited Botswana and Namibia to learn from their experiences of opening up meat exports to the European Union.

Dr Munkhnasan Tsevegmed, Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Light Industry, Mongolia