(By U. Erdenebileg)
In modern times, with the development of communication technologies, people can easily get weather forecasts and warnings via social media and cell phones, not to mention TV and radio channels. However, creativity and ingenuity of local residents still play a big role in managing their livelihoods when disaster strikes.
In April of 1980, more than 35 years ago, very cold and strong snow storm hit ten Gobi and Eastern aimags of Mongolia. The storm lasted for two days but managed to kill many thousand animals and many herders froze to death trying to find their lost livestock. One herder from Bayan-Adraga soum of Hentii aimag, covered their animal shed with empty fodder bags and managed to save all his 400 animals. This story was highly publicized in Mongolia. Later this practice was carefully studied by representatives from the Party, and the Central Party Committee issued a decree obliging all herders to use covers for their shelters.
Our aimag APFs conducted a winter survey during LTS II trainings. 223 local respondents from 5 regions and 13 aimags participated in the survey. We asked them two questions: 1) How will this coming winter be and why? 2) How is your aimag/soum preparing for this winter?
Most respondents (81%) replied that dzud is likely to happen this winter due to several reasons: 1) drought and lack of rain 2) pasture overgrazing 3) very hot summer 4) wildfires in eastern aimags affected growth of grass 5) elder herders remind that a year of monkey usually brings a cold and tough winter. Gobi aimags were generally optimistic about the winter. Western aimags are expecting very cold winter with heavy snow falls.
All aimags started their winter preparations. Aimag governors formed special working groups to help residents prepare for winter, developed action plans. Each aimag and soum identified their pasture capacity and amount of needed hay and fodder. Each aimag and soum identified areas for possible migration, negotiated with neighboring aimags and agreed on number of herders to receive from each other. Herders began their preparation by selling weak animals and fixing their shelters and fences.
Cashmere is one of the softest, warmest and longest-lasting materials available today on the market. And Mongolia with 22 million goats is the 2nd largest producer of cashmere after China. There are around ten types of cashmere goats in Mongolia. Suhbaatar aimag is famous for their Bayandelger red goat that supplies one of the finest cashmere in Mongolia.
The average buck yields about 300-330 grams of cashmere and the female goat produces up to 340 grams of cashmere. The average diameter of fiber is 12 to 15 microns. Usually cashmere has white, grey and brown colors. Bayandelger goat has a distinct light color with shades of red. Garments made of Bayandelger red goat cashmere are in high demand in Mongolia and abroad. Red goats in Suhbaatar aimag produce approximately 15 tons of cashmere every year.
This September almost all Mercy Corps aimags organized their annual market days. Mercy Corps first introduced these events in five Gobi aimags in 2004 to assist local producers to establish direct linkages to buyers while avoiding middlemen as much as possible. Since then all Mercy Corps aimags have been organizing Market Days every year.
Local Market Days are a great success attracting a large number of rural producers and consumers. Cultural performance and sport competitions turn these events into great showcases for local talent. For many small producers, these market days provide an opportunity to sell their products, establish connections with other businesses and learn new marketing ideas. Mercy Corps no longer participates in the organization of these events. Local governments in partnership with domestic businesses and NGOs have since taken over and apply the model introduced first by Mercy Corps to organize such colorful and exciting events.
In times of disaster, livestock that are likely to perish remain a potential asset for their owners if timely action is taken, in that they can be converted into cash or meat through some form of destocking. Destocking helps to relieve pressure on natural resources to the benefit of the remaining stock and provides a direct or indirect source of food for crisis-affected families.
There are two types of destocking: accelerated livestock off-take and slaughter destocking. Accelerated livestock off-take involves support to livestock traders and exporters to buy up livestock before they die. This provides cash for affected communities and helps to promote livestock marketing linkages between traders and livestock owners that have potential longer term benefits. Slaughter destocking is carried out by external agencies or government rather than private traders and involves the purchase and slaughter of disaster threatened stock for meat distribution to affected communities.