'Green Gold' Pasture Ecosystem Management, Mongolia| [Mongolia]

Reporting Entity: Switzerland

Clarify if the technology described in the template, or a part of it, is covered by property rights: No

Completeness: 74%

General Information

General Information

Title of best practice:

'Green Gold' Pasture Ecosystem Management, Mongolia|



Reporting Entity:


Property Rights

Clarify if the technology described in the template, or a part of it, is covered by property rights:



Section 1. Context of the best practice: frame conditions (natural and human environment)

Short description of the best practice

The current legal status of grasslands as an open-access resource is one main obstacle to improving grassland management practices. Since 2004, SOC has supported the Mongolian Society for Range Management (MSRM) through the Green Gold Project to introduce Pasture User Groups (PUGs) and Associations of PUGs as service NGOs to support the self-governance capacity of herders to manage pastures sustainably. Typical activities adopted by herder members of PUGs include rotational grazing, deferred grazing and resting of pastures, and fodder input and livestock product marketing activities. The PUG model has been successfully implemented in 55 soums in the country. MSRM has also led the drafting of a proposed Pasture Law supportive of these PUG arrangements that has been submitted for discussion in the national parliament. Several other national political actors have also suggested legal and economic incentive mechanisms (e.g. taxes, user fees, off-take subsidies) to clarify pasture use rights and address overstocking. The topic of legal and institutional mechanisms for supporting sustainable grassland management is fully recognized, and practical pilot experiences, such as the PUG system developed in the GG program, are useful for informing policy discussions. |


of the country’s 1.5 million square kilometre area. Mainly 7 western aimags are targeted in the 3 Phase of the Green Gold project: Arkhangai, Bayankhongor, Govi-Altai, Uvs, Khovd, Bayan-Ulgii, Zavkhan|

Brief description of the natural environment within the specified location.

In general, Mongolian soils are thin, light, and low in organic matter, and have poor fertility. Exceptions are the few fertile river valleys and the alluvial loss soils north of Ulaanbaatar. The Mongolian soils are characterized by strong freezing of the upper part of soils in the winter; freezing may go down as deep as 3 to 4.5m for long 6-9 months of year. Most of Mongolia’s territory is under permafrost.|
The climate of Mongolia is characterized by high moisture deficit, low humidity and low levels of incident energy. Despite 260 days of sunshine, total heat units above 100 rarely exceed 2000 and in some areas less than 1000. Snow cover is very light, so soils are completely frozen in the winter. As a consequence, the effective vegetation-growing period is short, generally from 80 to 100 days, although it can vary from 70 to 150 days depending on altitude and location. |
Studies of the flora and fauna, together with climatic and geographic data, classify Mongolia into six broad ecological zones, namely, Montane, Boreal Forest, Forest-Steppe, Steppe, Desert-Steppe and Desert. About 8% of the land surface is covered by various types of forests with larch (73.6%), cedar (13%), pine (8%), birch (5%) and other species (fir, aspen, etc.) dominating in the northern part. Saxaul forests in the arid and semi-arid parts account for 28% of the total forest cover.|

Prevailing socio-economic conditions of those living in the location and/or nearby

Although the economy is growing and tends to stabilize in the last decade, poverty and unemployment are not declining substantially. The share of poor people living below the poverty line was nearly constant at about 35%. Urban and rural poverty declined slowly from 30.3% and 43.3% (2002/3) to 27% and 37.0%, respectively. Poverty in the western region decline from 51% to 39% yet is still the highest in the country (Ulaanbaatar: 20%). Inequality in the distribution of wealth is growing. |
With 1.7 people per km2, Mongolia has one of the lowest population densities in the world. More than one third of the total economically active population work as herders, another 7% in other agriculture related professions. The contribution of the agriculture sector to the GDP is around 20%. The urbanization rate is 67%, the highest in East Asia. The unemployment rate is an estimated 13%, however there is a high level of idleness, especially among the young people.|
The adoption of a new Constitution for Mongolia (1992) led to the privatization of collective assets, including animals. However, pastureland could not be given for private ownership (Article 6). Herders were left without clear directions about their rights and responsibilities in managing pastureland. Conflicts over grazing land and water increased, pastures were grazed uncontrolled and animal numbers increased significantly – making Mongolia’s nomadic pastoralist system vulnerable.|

On the basis of which criteria and/or indicator(s) (not related to The Strategy) the proposed practice and corresponding technology has been considered as 'best'?

The Green Gold Project is embedded in the long-term engagement of SDC aligned to Mongolia’s Development Goals (MoDGs), the National Development Strategy (NDS), the Economic Growth Support and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EGSPRS), and the local Harmonization agenda. SDC aims at improving and securing livelihoods of herders and ex-herders in rural areas focusing on improving the sustainable use and rehabilitation of natural resources as well as supporting ecologically-oriented social and economic development. Good governance, gender, and the right-based approach are transversal themes. The Green Gold project is further guided by operational principles that enhance collaboration, and learning for sustainable development among external and internal actors and stakeholders. The approach allowed addressing the lack of rules and regulation in Mongolian pasture economy by the establishment and further development of strong responsible Pasture User Groups (PUGs) as a national standard. |

Section 2. Problems addressed (direct and indirect causes) and objectives of the best practice

Main problems addressed by the best practice

Land degradation and desertification in Mongolia are serious environmental problems that threaten to destroy the country’s productive capacity, environmental assets and even its nomadic culture. It is generally agreed that about 80% of Mongolia’s grassland is sensitive and vulnerable to climate changes and inappropriate management of these ecosystems. |Mongolian grasses and legumes evolved under sustained grazing pressures and are well adapted to grazing. Yet large herd size, composition, uncoordinated herding patterns, and the development of mineral resources are threatening species diversity and enhancing soil erosion and weed infestation. Pasture productivity is decreasing and plant communities show dramatic developments towards degenerated plant communities.|Mobile pastoralism and extensive livestock production are key elements of Mongolia’s culture and economy. In 2007, almost 40% of the total economically active population worked either as herders (32%) or were otherwise dependent on the livestock sector. However, Mongolia’s pastoralists are impoverished and extremely vulnerable. Migration, urbanization un- and underemployment rates are high, undermining pastoralism as backbone of the rural economy and deteriorating the social cohesion.|In total, the National Development Strategy emphasizes sustained natural wealth as a fundamental value of the Mongolian Nation. Developing an “adequate pastoral utilization management system” is seen as a strategic element. In contradiction, the objectives of the Food and Agriculture Policy (2007) are to increase production of the main agricultural products for consumption and exports. The strategy appears to encourage an increase in livestock numbers as a means of escaping rural poverty.|Efforts by herders to collectively manage their pastureland are now well established at the local level. However, the absence of national legislation is stipulating the extent of their rights and responsibilities, and has left them with limited legal power. The transition from a command economy to a liberal market economy and the development of a legal framework for herders’ pasture-management organisations requires the enacting of many new laws and regulations.

Outline specific land degradation problems addressed by the best practice

GG addresses factors for ecosystem degradation of anthropogenic origins: overgrazing; drastically increased number of livestock, especially goats; reduced mobility of herders (poverty, lack of water sources); abandoned crop lands and fallow cultivation practice; mining and uncontrolled driving; overexploitation of forests and other plants; loss of indigenous conservation practices, breakage of community or kinship groups; destruction of natural resources for energy and construction. Over the last 70 years the number of animals increased while the available pasture area decreased. Consequences from mismanagement seem to have bigger economic impact on herders’ livelihoods as climate fluctuations and changes further increase the ecosystems fragility. However, little verifiable information exists at national level, as Mongolia does not have standardized national pastureland monitoring system, and little is known about the recovery rate of degraded pastures or of abandoned cropland. |

Specify the objectives of the best practice

Pasture User Groups are established, empowered and practice community based pasture management in 72 selected soums.|The regulatory framework governing herder-centred pasture management issues and related implementation and institutional capacities are strengthened.|Appropriate technologies and practices for improved pasture management as well as forage production developed, tested and adopted by herders.|The project is managed successfully and available knowledge on pasture range management processed, evaluated and shared among all stakeholders and interested people.

Section 3. Activities

Brief description of main activities, by objective

For a better understanding of pasture degradation issues, GG will work together with the Pasture User Groups so that the theoretical knowledge is transferred to the practical level immediately. Trials will be conducted and evaluated jointly with herders with three aims: a) to obtain qualified feedback on technologies and practices under test; b) to make the trials more relevant to beneficiaries; and c) to build the bridge to the application of results of successful technologies and practices.|The project tests options for improving pastures and forage production and supports applied agronomic and ecological research, based on existing experience, international best practice and needs in Mongolia. Successful technology trials are scaled up primarily within the Pasture User Groups and disseminated through a national database currently being developed by the Desertification Study Centre in collaboration with the SDC funded Coping with Desertification Project.|To acquire in-depth knowledge of pasture management and rehabilitation, the project continues to support training and professional formation of young people. GG has established collaboration in training with the State University of Colorado, the ETH and Agroscope, the Agriculture University of Reykjavik, Island, USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range, USA, and other centres of expertise. The project trained people are expected to become the key professionals in pasture management in the future.
The project will, in coordination with key stakeholders, continue to assist the government in developing range management regulations, otor (reserve pasture) and organizational structures that are considerate to the Mongolian traditions, the current economic realities, the environmental and climatic challenges as well as the traditional nomadic culture. The appropriate regulatory framework is developed in line with existing laws and based on principles of Human Rights and gender equity.|It is expected that a law on pasture will be approved by Parliament during the time of this project and that reserve pasture area (otor) will be significantly increased from 0.4% to 10% and included into the list of special protected areas.|The project is continuing the development of a streamlined pasture health monitoring approach, effectively integrating local knowledge into an overall decision making tool. In this, the project will work closely with the Dutch funded National Geographic Information System Project (NGIS), the World Bank’s Sustainable Livelihood Project II (SLP II) and National Agency for Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment Monitoring (NAMHEM).
The Mongolian Society for Range Management (MSRM) will implement the project and has the capacity to address key challenges in pastureland management, and is able to acquire and disseminate scientific knowledge concerning Mongolia’s range. SDC will assist the MSRM in building its administrative capacity and support it in project cycle management by the provision of a management coach for the first three years of the project and support through advisors.|The project continues to work closely with the relevant research and training institutions in pasture management and forage production as well as with external partners engaging with pasture management. It is building up the Society's capacity to provide a multi-disciplinary platform for cooperation in all aspects of range management, to represent the herders’ interest at national level, and to collect, analyze and disseminate relevant information to interested stakeholders. |The project will effectively link international expertise with local knowledge for all its components and integrate results into coherent best practice documentation. Experience gained internationally under similar conditions is exchanged within the project. Regular team meetings and discussion among key stakeholders and participatory monitoring will further increase learning. A formal internal review and an external evaluation will contribute to learning and knowledge management as well.
During Phase I the project has developed and implemented a community-based pasture management approach based on pasture user groups (PUGs) in five soums representing the main ecological zones. During Phase 2 that approach is up-scaled to 72 soums. Target soums are mainly in the western aimags but also in key ecological zones in other geographical areas. At the end of the project every aimag has at least one model soum to be used by the SLP II for training and upscaling.|The project has made this knowledge available to interested actors such as MFALI (Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industries), ALAGaC (Administration of Land Affairs, Geodesy and Cartography, also referred to as the 'Land Management Agency'), World Bank, UNDP and others. GG will attempt to make actors aware of their identities and roles and of the vital role of the PUGs in a multi-partnership approach for SLM of Mongolian pastureland.|Green Gold’s working with sustainable pasture management is linked with food security at the local and national level as well as rural development. This part of the GG programme will be implemented through the Pasture User Community Empowerment Project.

Short description and technical specifications of the technology

Several donor funded projects have been exploring options for improving range management and the profitability of livestock management. Most innovations focus on forming herder groups or pasture user groups to develop and implement range management plans, implementing technical measures for grassland management and developing livestock product value chains. The basis of interventions by the Green Gold (GG) Program is the establishment of Pasture User Groups (PUGs) as core unit for governing the Mongolian ecosystem. GG's approach is based on the assumption that small herder groups are unable to coordinate mobility and range management between herder groups using the same territory. In the GG approach, an entire soum (except reserved pasture land) is divided into areas of rangeland that are allocated to PUGs. Herders with camps and pastures within these demarcated areas are automatically considered members of the PUG of that area.
PUGs within the same soum federate into a PUG association at the soum level. PUG members may form voluntary herder groups for specific activities within the PUG area, but rangeland use plans are agreed at the PUG level. Each PUG has a revolving fund which is managed in a saving and credit cooperative (SCC) at the soum level. PUGs decide for themselves how to manage pastures and how to use their credit fund. Pasture management plans (PMP) specify seasonal rotations, resting of pastures and other technical interventions for range management. PUGs can negotiate and facilitate seasonal and permanent movement of non-PUG members in and out of their area. The soum PUG association assists by providing a bridge with bag and soum governments, citizen's assemblies and technicians. PUG Associations convene the PUGs within the soum, and also provide capacity building, technical support and services to support rangeland management. As a registered NGO, the PUG Association has permanent staff (director and an administrator).
Some PUGs have successfully organized herders to engage in small-scale product marketing and product processing activities. This suggests significant potential for addressing not only grassland and livestock management issues within the PUG framework, but also for securing significant gains in economic returns to livestock husbandry. Further innovations are required to find ways in which the PUG associations can finance their involvement in this trade, and carbon finance may be able to play a role in this.

Section 4. Institutions/actors involved (collaboration, participation, role of stakeholders)

Name and address of the institution developing the technology

SDC- SCO Swiss Cooperation Office Mongolia|www.sdc.mn|MSRM Mongolian Society for Range Management|

Was the technology developed in partnership?


List the partners:

Herder and herder groups organised in Pasture User Groups (PUGs)|Local Governments: Bagh Government, Soum Government, Aimag Government|Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry (MFALI), with Pasture Management Division and Otor Commission|Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET)|Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs (MJHA)|Authority of Land Affairs, Cartigraphy and Geodesy (ALAGaC)(also called Land Management Agency)|Research Institute for Animal Husbandry (RIAH) of the Mongolian State University of Agriculture (MSUA)|Geo-Ecological Institute (GEI) of the Academy of Science|National Agency for Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment Monitoring (NAMHEM)|Agroscope, Switzerland|USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range, USA|Colorado State University, Warner College of Natural Resources|other Agriculture Research Institutes (Hohhot, Inner Mongolia and Irkutsk, Russia)

Specify the framework within which the technology was promoted

  • Programme/project-based initiative

Was the participation of local stakeholders, including CSOs, fostered in the development of the technology?


List local stakeholders involved:

Mongolian Forage Seed Producers Association (MFSPA)|Soum and Aimag Pasture Associations|Mongolian Society for Range Management (MSRM)

For the stakeholders listed above, specify their role in the design, introduction, use and maintenance of the technology, if any.

The Bagh, Soum and Aimag government link herders with national government levels and are involved in the planning, monitoring and evaluation of the project. The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry (MFALI) is a principal partner as it has the mandate to improve livestock production, provide policy directions and support services to the herders. MFALI’s Pasture Management Division forms structures and systems at the government level to address critical issues of pasture degradation and management, improving mutual cooperation between the Ministry and other stakeholder institutions and external partner projects. It’s Otor Commission, is responsible to establish otor pastures throughout the country and set up regulations for its use - a prerequisite for a successful land tenure system for nomadic people. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) is involved in the protection of the environment and nature and has responsibilities for combating desertification and conservation of flora and fauna. The Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs (MJHA) oversees the formulation and implementation of laws including laws related to pastureland. The Authority of Land Affairs, Cartography and Geodesy (ALAGaC) (or Land Management Agency) is responsible for administering land affairs including maintaining land records, surveys, demarcation and allotment to individuals and groups. The Research Institute for Animal Husbandry and the Geo-Ecological Institute are key partners for research. The National Agency for Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment Monitoring (NAMHEM) is responsible for monitoring climate data as well as providing whether forecast information. Technical and scientific support is provided from Agroscope Switzerland; the USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range, USA; the Warner College of Natural Resources of the Colorado State University as well as from agriculture research institutes (Hohhot, Inner Mongolia/Irkutsk, Russia). The main partner in forage seed production and multiplication is the Mongolian Forage Seed Producers Association (MFSPA). The soum and aimag pasture associations are legally NGOs and the project will work together with them on the implementation of co-management plans and their implementation. The Mongolian Society for Range Management (MSRM) is the implementing agency of this project as well as a leading organization in coordinating and advancing knowledge and issues related to range management.|

Was the population living in the location and/or nearby involved in the development of the technology?


By means of what?
  • Participatory approaches


Section 5. Contribution to impact

Describe on-site impacts (the major two impacts by category)

PUG/APUG leaders see potential in the establishment of herder business cooperatives focusing on the marketing of livestock products. As of December 2011, 23 such cooperatives were established. They comprised 3700 herder members and 33 full-time employees.|
A 2011 survey of 13,000 herders found that the majority believed the pasture in their respective regions to be degraded and supported the enactment of a relevant law or regulation. 56% believed entitlements should be given to such organised groups as Herder Groups or Pasture-User Groups (PUGs). |
To contribute to local development, Soum Associations of PUGs are participating in government tenders. Seven were entrusted with the implementation of government projects in their areas. Those projects ranged from growing sea-buckthorn saplings to organising forage-planting training for herders. |
An increasing amount of rangelands is set aside for rotational grazing by herders and local governments. In the Green Gold Project target soums, green forage planting has increased by a factor of 15, 5000 ha of hay-making land has been fenced, and 144 manual and 56 engineer wells were rehabilitated.|
Mongolia adopted one national methodology for rangeland health monitoring in 2011. It incorporates indicators of ecological potential and is based on a design that was developed and tested over a five-year period by the GG Project and the NAMHEM
In 2011, results and feedback from herders and other local stakeholders demonstrated the effectiveness of GG activities, which combined theoretical aspects with real-life experiences. The acceptance of local trainers, herders and other participants was high.|

Impact on biodiversity and climate change

Explain the reasons:

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, Mongolia’s centrally planned economy suffered a harsh initial shock. Harsh winters and dry summers (dzuds) in 1999-2002 brought a second shock just a few years after the economy had started to grow again. A decline from 34 to 24 million heads of livestock over these years led to a further economic regression and clearly pointed to the environmental vulnerability of the 800,000 people whose livelihood depends directly or indirectly on livestock, whose productivity and health is, in turn, directly relevant to the livelihoods of the rural population.
Mongolia’s environment is characterized by a continental climate and fragile ecosystems. Climate changes (increased temperature and less precipitation) and uncontrolled utilization of the common resources, water and pastureland, have drastically revealed the country’s vulnerability. Land degradation, loss of biodiversity and desertification are serious threats and demand an urgent response at the legislative and at the community level to draw up and enact proper rangeland and water management practices. The pressure on natural resources due to poverty in rural areas has increased; excessive hunting, illegal logging, collection of medicinal plants, the creation of unauthorized car tracks, uncontrolled artisanal mining and overgrazing further lead to the depletion of natural resources. Since Mongolia’s well-being highly depends on the natural wealth (agriculture, mining, tourism), natural resource management and ecological issues - including the environmental impact of fast urbanization – should be at the heart of sustainable development.
In the Green Gold programme and in related projects, SDC’s target group are the vulnerable herders and ex-herders in rural areas of Western Mongolia. To strengthen the self-reliance of poor and vulnerable herders and to improve their livelihoods through more productive and sustainable use of pastures in Mongolia and to support  the necessary institutional change serves the goals of the UNCCD, UNCBD, UNFCC mitigation and adaptation frameworks.

Has a cost-benefit analysis been carried out?

Has a cost-benefit analysis been carried out?


Section 6. Adoption and replicability

Was the technology disseminated/introduced to other locations?

Was the technology disseminated/introduced to other locations?



up-scaling from 5 soums of Phase 1 of the Green Gold programme to 72 soums in Phase 2

Can you identify the three main conditions that led to the success of the presented best practice/technology?

Harmonization agenda: SCS is aligned to Mongolia’s Development Goals (MoDGs), the National Development
Strategy (NDS), the Economic Growth Support
and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EGSPRS), and the
local Harmonization agenda. The SCS strategic
objective aims at improving and
securing livelihoods of herders and ex-herders in
rural areas focusing on improving the sustainable
use and rehabilitation of natural resources as
well as supporting ecologically-oriented social
and economic development.|
Diversified approaches to one goal: SDC's long-term involvement in Mongolia with different projects that basically support the same goals
Partnership approach and Ownership: Fostering collective action among herders for the management of pasture resources is a focus area of the Swiss-Mongolian partnership. Pasture-User Groups (PUGs) comprise herders who have received the right to manage pastures in their traditional grazing areas by the local government. PUGs are autonomous bodies supported by local governments. Herder communities have embraced the concept, and there has been a growing demand for assistance to form such groups. |


In your opinion, the best practice/technology you have proposed can be replicated, although with some level of adaptation, elsewhere?


At which level?
  • Local
  • Sub-national
  • National

Section 7. Lessons learned

Related to human resources

No Data

Related to technical aspects

Any approach for pasture management in Mongolia is facing the tension between the government’s commitment to a free market economy and the tradition of publicly owned and administrated land and water resources. The high correlation of income with the number of animals is detrimental for sustainable nomadic pastoralism. The project needs to show a double commitment: to the herders and their; and to the government to end the exploitation of pastures for the sake of Mongolia’s heritage.

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