ULAANBAATAR, June 1 2010 - Community-based initiatives are one of the main focuses of the Sustainable Livelihoods Project (SLP). The SLP places the decision-making back on communities, by allowing citizens to choose where the money should to be spent.
Since 2004, the Uzlit soum* (a district within a district called aimag**) in Southern Mongolia has implemented 17 projects as part of the community initiatives component of the SLP. All projects aim to improve community facilities such as kindergartens, schools and the hospital.
The Uzlit community is very pleased that the local hospital was supplied with new beds, sheets, windows and a roof. A washing machine and fridge were also purchased. According to the Governor of Uzlit, four small projects through the SLP fully funded the hospital renovations, making the hospital one of the best in the soum.
Jinst soum’s Deputy Governor Amarkhand Dulamkhand says that this program allows rural communities to have small but vital infrastructure projects upgraded and paid for.
“In general there is a lack of funding to upgrade public infrastructure, which is why this program is so important. We make a point to meet with people in our community to discuss what needs to be upgraded and then we apply for the money. We collectively make the decision, which results in an improvement of facilities for everyone,” said the Deputy Governor.
A wide spectrum of society involved at all levels
Community meetings are held in baghs (Mongolia’s smallest rural administration unit) where proposals are put forward and chosen.
“In terms of the selection process, there are several levels. First the community members gather at the bagh meeting and speak about the projects they propose for the following year, then a shortlist of projects is sent to the soum governors counsel for consideration. Finally the soum counsel discusses which three or four projects can be implemented in the year and sends this information on to the aimag for financing."
Soum council members include the governor, government office director, school principal, social worker, head of hospital, herder representative and members from Non Governmental Organizations.
“Sometimes we don’t have enough funding to follow through on all of the proposals. When that’s the case we try to see the leftover proposals through the following year,” said Amarkhand.
The Jinst soum has also been able to provide its traveling medic with a motorcycle. Previously, Dr. Khurelchuluun travelled up to 30 kilometers a day on horseback to make house calls. He found it quite difficult, especially in the snow and the rain.
“Every day I visit about five or six households. I see women who are pregnant, children under the age of five and answer emergency calls. Now that I have a motorcycle I’m much faster and I can deliver the service more quickly,” said the doctor.
Dr. Khurelchuluun received the motorcycle five years ago after submitting a proposal through his bagh. However five years of daily use has left his motorcycle in poor condition and he’s hoping to get a new one soon.
* an aimag is a district in Mongolia, Mongolia is divided into 21 aimags
* soum is a district within an aimag. Aimags are divided into 331 soums