FEATURE STORY

Providing Mongolia’s Rural Communities with Sustainable Livelihoods

May 7, 2015



STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mongolia’s rural communities depend their livelihoods on a fragile eco-system which is subject to degradation of pastures, and highly vulnerable to severe climate.
  • “Sustainable Livelihoods Program” (SLP) was launched to address these challenges and to increase the flow of public and private investment to herders’ communities.
  • As the program entered the 3rd phase, herders look forward to more improvements in their lives.

Ulaan Uul, Mongolia – While Mongolia has experienced drastic changes, driven by the fast economic growth and the mining boom, one third of its people remain on the steppe, continuing their lifestyle as nomadic herders.

They often live far from settlements, making it challenging and costly to provide basic services, infrastructure and communications systems to them. Their livelihoods are dependent on access to a fragile eco-system which is subject to degradation of over-grazed or mismanaged pastures, and highly vulnerable to severe climate like the harsh, cold winters known as dzud in Mongolian.

In 2001, following two years of particularly harsh dzud which killed almost one third of the country’s livestock, the Government of Mongolia and the World Bank began to work together to address these challenges and to increase the flow of public and private investment to herders’ communities in rural areas.

A Three-phase Program

The three-phase “Sustainable Livelihoods Program” (SLP) was launched in 2002.

The first phase, from 2002-2007, demonstrated new approaches to rural service delivery and community participation in decision making by establishing community development funds that helped communities to identify investments to address pastoral risk and improve their livelihoods.

In the second phase, from 2007-2013, an expanded program led to community development fund financing for more than 6,000 sub-projects, mostly for investments in education, health, pasture management and micro-finance to support emergence of local  entrepreneurs. Most importantly, SLP2 led to the institutionalization of the decentralization process through the enactment of the Integrated Budget Law, paving the way for financial resources flow to local government.

SLP3 is designed to support continued implementation of the Integrated Budget Law, government decentralization policy, and other reforms. It will build capacity for the local governments to manage Local Development Funds, which will finance investments in rural infrastructure and services at the local level.

The project also will bolster the Soum Program, which offers incentives to local government entities that adopt participatory processes to reflect local needs and priorities in their planning, budgeting, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.



" To allocate funds for these developments, all the herding divisions in the county got together. People’s needs and priorities were expressed out loud and clear. "

M. Enkhtuur



Reaching Out to Herders’ Communities

T. Morongha, a teacher at Ulaan Uul Elementary School, is reaping the benefits brought by the program. “It was freezing cold in the winter. Students and teachers had to wear thick coats even indoors,” she said. “The program allowed us to put a stove in each classroom. Students can now remove their coats in class. Teaching and learning became an enjoyable experience.”

B. Oronhishig, sports coach of Ulaan Uul High School, echoes her.

“Before, cold wind would blow in from the windows. The floors were freezing cold, making it difficult to teach,” he said.

In 2012, when the teachers got together and discussed on how to use the community development funds under SLP, he proposed to renovate the school gym.

“We insulated the walls and the floors of the gymnasium. Now, it is quite warm and cozy in there when we train,” he said.

“We spent $2,500 from the funds on the school gym renovation. With the rest of the funds, we were able to light the streets in town, build a medicine bath to disinfect the livestock and also build two fenced enclosures to treat sick animals in each of the five herding divisions of the county,” said M. Enkhtuur, SLP Project Coordinator, Ulaan Uul County.

There was something even more fundamental than these infrastructure improvements. “To allocate funds for these developments, all the herding divisions in the county got together. People’s needs and priorities were expressed out loud and clear,” he said.

“Now our local government listens before spending the money. They advise us on business loans, contract us for services and labor. I feel our voices are being heard,” said Purevjav, a 70-year-old herder.

“We provide loans to help rural residents start small businesses. Some people have started small vegetable farms, for example. We buy their produce to supply local demand in town,” said N. Batbayar, Governor, Ulaan Uul County.

 

Going Forward

Before, projects were administered top-down – central or provincial authorities dictated local development, with little or no say from the local communities, says Kh. Gantsogt, State Secretary of Mongolia’s Ministry of Finance.

“Thanks to the Sustainable Livelihoods Program, we are looking at development from a new angle. Projects implemented with the direct consent of the local people tend to be more sustainable in the long run,” he says.

As the program entered the 3rd phase, herders already expressed their wishes which they hope could be realized in the new phase. 

Tsorj the ‘Giant’, a herder in the Ulaan Uul County, said he was happy that the old well on his spring pastures was repaired. “But water is also becoming scarce on our winter pastures,” he said. “I would suggest digging another well there next year. The next big concern in our lives is water!”




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