Starting October 2009, I will be working in Mongolia for one year in an effort to reduce poverty and conserve this beautiful country. I have been selected by the Ministry of Agriculture to serve as a natural resource specialist for a land management project working with poor herders in Mongolia to improve pasture and water availability.
Since Mongolia’s recent transition from communism to a market economy, herders have encountered serious social and economic challenges. Banks passed out loads of loans to herders to increase their profits during a boom time. Overgrazing and other poor land practices led to severely degraded pasture and damaged water sources (I am simplifying the story. Please read more on these complex issues). As lands become unproductive, herders abandon them and now unable to sustain their livelihood, migrate to cities in search of jobs. This migration has resulted in Mongolia’s first urban slums. Unemployment is high and this poverty has led to a rise in alcoholism, family disintegration, domestic violence, street children, and declining health statistics in the Country.
Environmental quality is at the top of community concerns and herders are organizing themselves around these issues. I will be working with herders and cooperatives throughout the country to support them technically in the restoration of their natural resources. Specifically, I will map water points and pastureland throughout Mongolia, assess restoration needs, and establish land use plans and policy recommendations.
Along the way, I also expect to transfer my skills directly. I will train herders and land officers on the use of GIS for land use planning and create training materials, so that in the future they can supply their own land use planners for mapping projects.
Because Mongolia has few inhabitants, it is reasonable to expect that this project will positively improve the livelihoods of a large percentage of the rural peoples of Mongolia.
My personal goal is to help conserve the nomadic culture and natural beauty of these high mountain lands.