on horseback minds his family's herd of goats in the grassland steppe of eastern Mongolia's Toson Hulstai Nature Reserve.
Mongolian herder boy A young boy on horseback minding his family's herd of goats in the grassland steppe of eastern Mongolia's Toson Hulstai Nature Reserve. © Nick Hall

Stories in Mongolia

Herder Communities and Conservation

The Nature Conservancy partners with herders for community-led grassland management.

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The boundless plains of Mongolia are open-access, allowing herders to travel and graze their animals freely. In recent decades, traditional herding techniques have changed with the privatization of livestock during the transition to a market economy, leading to overgrazing. For example, herders have exponentially increased herd sizes to increase income, and to meet global demand, have taken on more cashmere goats that are destructive to grasslands. Herders now need to learn new skills to generate income

To protect pasturelands from further degradation, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is working with herders to take advantage of an amended environmental law giving herder communities formal recognition of their communal pasturelands and resource management rights.

Communities can reduce grassland degradation by keeping other herders out, creating natural resource management plans focused on sustainable herd sizes, and working together on alternative businesses to earn more income.

With our tradition of animal husbandry and pastoral livestock herding, we have an abundant wealth of knowledge and practical experience in nature conservation.

Associate Professor of Biology, National University of Mongolia

In 2017, TNC began working in three locations to help herders form community-based organizations (CBOs) that increase their collective ability to make decisions about how their pasturelands will be managed and to explore new opportunities for economic development. For a CBO to be recognized by the local government, herders need to develop a natural resource management plan so TNC has been providing them strategic guidance. With our support, 27 CBOs covering 1.4 million acres and comprising 926 herders have been established. TNC’s goal is to reach 4,000 herders by 2020. In addition, almost 5,000 herders and government officials have been trained in grassland conservation and management practices and livelihood development options.

The new demonstration projects will help communities better manage natural resources important for herding and wildlife. We are helping herders to form community-based organizations that allow them to care for their land collectively, while providing opportunities for additional income from handicrafts and tourism.