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Pasture user groups for sustainable rangeland management in Mongolia

Place: mongolia, Asia
Sustainable management of natural resources Sustainable management of natural resources
Total Budget: € 8.500.000,00 | Period: From January 2013 To December 2016


Nomadic pastoralism is the backbone of food security in Mongolia. More than 210,000 rural households (1/3 of the total population) are keeping around 40 million livestock comprising sheep, goats, cattle, yak, horses and camels. Degradation of Mongolian rangeland is increasing and affects 70% of the territory. Overgrazing and the lack of a regulatory framework are the main causes of rangeland degradation. Since 2006, the Green Gold Project facilitated collective actions among nomadic herders organizing pasture user groups to implement measures preventing rangeland degradation. Rotational grazing, resting practices, hay making and feeding during the winter are among the introduced measures. The results are an increased productivity and an adaptation of the herd size to the carrying capacity of the rangelands. In 2013, a total of 3.4 million hectares of degraded rangeland have been rehabilitated through 700 pasture user groups representing more than 40,000 households.


Ministry of Industry and Agriculture - Mongolia

Lead applicant

The Ministry of Industry and Agriculture of Mongolia is responsible for developing legal and policy framework for Mongolia’s industrial and agricultural sectors. It develops policies that support value-chain development, sustainable and efficient use of resources to contribute to economic growth, industrial and agricultural development and food-security for the population. The ministry’s objectives are to encourage intensified farming, quality organization of animal identification, enhance animal health conditions and prevention of diseases, establishment of water points in rural areas and to improve good pastureland management. In the food sector, the ministry prioritize to support domestic production, increase the volume of industrial processed food products and to slow down the quantity and variety of import goods. Its key task is to ensure food safety and to meet the domestic demand of potatoes and vegetables production.

Aimag Federation of Pasture Users' Groups - Mongolia

Initiative partner

Promote sustainable pasture management and economic development at the herders' level.

Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in Mongolia - Mongolia

Initiative partner

Assisting the Government of Mongolia with development programmes on agriculture, vocational education and governance

Sustainable rangeland management

Collective actions through organised pasture user groups in Mongolia are a sustainable way to protect rangeland from desertification and to guarantee food security for the next herder generation

Green Gold Herders Joint Harvesting Green Gold project encourages herders' collective actions in better management of rangeland. Members of Pasture Users' Groups - herders' self-organisations - join their forces in many ways in order to overcome envrionmental and economic hardships that herders face in their everyday life.
Story of a SDC Beneficiary Herder This is a photography and video multimedia on the story of a Mongolian herder. Dugersuren is a leader of the Pasture Users' Group in Tsagaankhairkhan soum, Zavkhan aimag. He and his fellow herders joined their forces in better managing their rangeland for better production and more economic benefits.

Mongolia has millions of hectares of grasslands which have been managed sustainably during thousands of years by nomadic herders. External influences such as political changes and climate change are putting the system at risk. The governments is asked to provide rapid solution in order to stop the grassland degradation. Increased degradation could be irreversible and end into desertification. As nomadic herding in Mongolia is a backbone for the food security, the latter is at risk.

Mongolian grasslands Mongolia is rich with millions of livestock - the very source of livelihoods to mongolians - grazing on the thosands of hectares of rangelands.
Pasture degredation Due to overgrazing and other factors, a large portion of Mongolia's precious pasturelands are degrading and it presents many hardships to the nomadic herders.
Winter pasturelands Harsh winterstorms are not pleasant for a herder pasturing his livestock.

The conflicts on rangeland among herders have been reduced thanks to the introduction of the pasture plans. Herders organisations are increasingly recognized by local Governments which are starting to support them with local development funds. Better management of the herd, result in increased income by the herders. Adoption of resting periods is the guarantee for rangeland to recover and to increase the grazing capacity. 

Rested pasture Resting pastures for a period of time proves to be the effective method for restoration of the degraded pastures. the members of the Pasture Users' Group (PUG) agree to set aside a piece of pasture for resting in order to let it regenerate. A leader of a PUG proudly presents the regenerated pastureland with more productivity.

Tens of thousands of herders’ households live in the Western part of Mongolia, which is considered to be the region that is the most affected by natural disasters and is also the poorest one. These herders are especially exposed to natural risks and do not have all the capacities needed to face all the challenges. Support in improved herd management and in household economy is especially needed.

Kazakh herder Green Gold Project works with many thousands of herder households including the ethnic minorities such as Kazakhs in the western region. Herding is not an easy job for the people in the western region, battling against horde of hardships including natural calamities and climate changes.

The initiative is coordinated by a lean project coordination unit. This unit is composed by 5 Mongolian experts assisted by an international advisor. In each of the 7 aimag, the federations have 3-4 staff which are highly qualified professionals in animal husbandry, livestock and pasture management. In each soum the Association of Pasture User Groups are also collaborating with highly motivated staff.

Herder women participation In Mongolia, women actively participate in community activities. Herder women are a part of the pasture user groups and they contribute to the planning and appropriate use of resources.
Mr. Akhai Mr. Akhai is a head of the Aimag Federation of the Pasture Users' Groups in Bayan-Ulgii aimag - a home to the Kazakhs in Mongolia. Mr. Akhai has been the all time champion for establishing pasture users' groups (PUG) in order to better manage rangelands in his home province and rehabilitate the degraded pasturelands. His PUG members managed to build a stone fence around 1000 ha hay making area of 300 herder families in Tsengel soum, Bayan-Ulgii in 2007.
PUG leaders Pasture Users Groups leaders often come together to plan the appropriate and efficient use of rangeland, make contracts with their governments on their members' behalf, and initiate many more economic development projects for their members.

The main challenge of the Green Gold project is the remoteness of the area and the large distances. Nomadic herders are mobile and it is not easy to reach them. Meetings and visits have to be well prepared and communication and transport are costly. The economic benefits of the collective actions have to be immediate otherwise the herders do not pay sufficient attention to it and their commitment is reduced. A lack of careful involvement of the local authorities can put the entire initiative at risk.

Remoteness remoteness and less developed infrastructure is one of the challanges for the successfulness of the project.

The introduction of the pasture plans, the adoption of rest periods, the clear deadlines for pasture use and the reduction of the herd’ size are all able to reduce the grazing pressure. This can be pivotal for the restoration and survival of certain grass species. Preventing the degradation of the grassland and finally avoid desertification is among the big challenges of this initiative. 

Comparisons of fenced and unfenced areas Fencing a piece of land to rest for a while helps rejuvinate and prevention from further degradation.

Several cooperatives were born out form the pasture user groups. While the pasture user groups are officially recognised associations (NGO’s in Mongolia), the cooperatives are business entities capable to generate benefits. The presence of the well organised pasture user groups within the herders are more and more recognised by the local governments especially to identify investments needs for the local development. 

../file-system/small/docx ../file-system/small/docx A story of herder woman Ms. Oyun is one of the successful leaders of the PUGs and Cooperatives that born out of PUGs. She now succesfully manage a cooperative established for the greater economic benefits of the herders in the PUG. More:

Initiatives: pasture user groups, pasture land plans, collective hay making, mapping of the pasture land, teaching on how to measure grassland degradation, collective marketing of livestock products via cooperatives, citizens councils to participate in the local development fund discussions.

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Green Gold Project Factsheet The project factsheet provides a brief overview to the full context and activities of the project.