Improvements to Water Resources for Mongolia's Nomadic Herding Families on Tap

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Japan and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are working with poor herding families in Mongolia’s Ovorhangay province to improve herding families’ access to water and pasture resources.

The Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction is extending a $2 million grant for the project, which will be overseen by ADB and executed by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture with the cooperation of the nongovernmental organization VSO Mongolia. More than half the population in Ovorhangay depends on herding for daily living and this project will help establish or rehabilitate 60 water points in 10 districts over a three-year period. The resources will be managed by 60 herd-management groups that will receive technical and legal support in developing and overseeing pasture and well management plans.

The new and rehabilitated water points are expected to increase land available for grazing by 168,000 hectares, benefiting 900 nomadic herding families. The project will also support improved livestock production and alternative livelihoods through one-stop agricultural and social service extension centers expected to serve 100 nomadic herding groups and help them to raise their income by at least 15% over the life of the project.

“Nomadic herding families in Mongolia face limited access to adequate pasture resources due to lack of pasture with adequate wells, and much of the available pasture land is declining in quality due to overgrazing, poor management, and erratic weather conditions caused by climate change,” said Christopher Edmonds, Rural Development Economist of ADB’s East Asia Department.

The project will help develop local institutions to ensure sustainable use of new water and pasture resources, reduce poverty among herding families, and provide the groundwork to develop the livestock sector, he said.

The livestock sector has the potential to reduce rural poverty and boost economic growth through food production and the export of high-quality meat and wool products, including cashmere. The sector accounts for more than 80% of the contribution of agriculture to the nation’s gross domestic product, and appears to be one of the few agricultural activities for which Mongolia can be competitive in international trade.

While poverty has fallen in recent years, it remains a serious concern in Mongolia where more than one in three people are considered poor. Poverty is significantly higher in rural areas, where poor households depend on agriculture and livestock production for their livelihoods. Nomadic herding families, who rotate their mixed herds across remote pastures, account for more than half the rural population of the country.

The government has been increasing its investments in rehabilitating water resources in underutilized pasture areas. However, the management of water resources and surrounding pastures requires strengthening vital agricultural and social services in remote rural areas where the risk of continued pasture degradation is high.