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Fighting Back Against Desertification, Dzuds and Sandstorms in Mongolia

As global temperatures rise and human activities expand, many regions face the severe consequences of climate change. Mongolia, a landlocked country with a rich nomadic heritage has experienced significant desertification, recurring droughts, as well as increasing sandstorms and severely harsh winters known as  “Dzuds” in recent decades.

Currently, Mongolia is facing one of its most extreme Dzuds yet with early reports from Mongolia’s Emergency Management Agency painting a worrying picture: with over 7 million animals perishing by April 2024. The livestock industry is a vital source of food and income for herders.

This ecological crisis has contributed significantly to rural poverty, as herders and local communities struggle to maintain their traditional livelihoods in increasingly hostile environmental conditions. The degradation of pasturelands and water sources, coupled with more frequent and severe weather events, has made it difficult for nomadic herders to sustain their way of life. Today, over three-quarters of Mongolia’s land is affected by drought and desertification, an issue only compounded by overgrazing and human activities, such as coal mining.  

“The temperature was minus 45 degrees F when Uuganaa, a 27-year-old nomad with a wife and two children, woke to the howling winds outside his “ger,” a felt-covered traditional Mongolian dwelling. Sensing something amiss, he hurriedly put on his heavy fur coat and noted that another blanket of snow had fallen during the night. Then he shoveled his way outside. Stepping outside, the air was so cold it condensed his breath on his scarf and froze his eyebrows and eyelashes. Uuganaa had left more than a hundred goats and sheep outside the night before, but now they were nowhere to be seen. There were no trails either. He realized that his prized herd, which he had raised from birth with his aunt and uncle, was under more than 3 feet of snow. All had frozen to death”

Mongolian Herder

Through The Climate Investment Fund, we are helping to carbon finance a local project’s effort to combat these challenges – run by the Mongolian Society for Range Management (MSRM) and verified by Plan Vivo. By implementing sustainable grazing practices, enhancing soil carbon sequestration, and restoring degraded lands, the project supports the resilience of rural communities.

Initiatives like creating mutual funds for low-interest loans, conducting extensive training on land management techniques, and fostering collaborative production and marketing of local products help alleviate the economic pressures on herders. Additionally, the project’s focus on biodiversity and habitat improvement ensures the sustainability of the region’s flora and fauna, further supporting the livelihoods of local communities.

Through these comprehensive efforts, the project is making significant strides in fighting both climate change and land degredation, thereby contributing to the reduction of rural poverty and the overall well-being of Mongolia’s nomadic herders.