FIELDS OF ACTION
REDUCTION OF WASTE PRODUCTION AND IMPROVEMENT OF WASTE MANAGEMENT
To date, waste management in rural areas remains very rudimentary. Sorting, composting and recycling are virtually non-existent in the soums.
In general, whether or not they are collected by the public services, the village's garbage is indiscriminately dumped into a vague open landfill area outside the soum-center.
The issue is equally important for nomads: due to the lack of better solution, the majority just leaves their garbage behind them in the middle of the steppe before moving to a new camp.
Since the waste management system is not really better in the cities, including Ulaanbaatar, it has become urgent to reduce the amount of waste we produce and rethink the way it is managed.
ECOSOUM’S OBJECTIVE IS TO SET UP AN EFFICIENT AND SUSTAINABLE WASTE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM, BY PROMOTING WASTE REDUCING, SORTING, REUSING AND RECYCLING, AIMING AT ZERO ULTIMATE WASTE ON THE SCALE OF THE SOUM.
The first step, essential to induce behaviour changes, is to raise awareness among the population (starting with children at school), public institutions and shops. The idea is to accompany the entire soum in its transition to more eco-responsibility, by encouraging the reduction and sorting of waste.
In order to receive the waste sorted by everyone, a proper waste management facility has been set up at the edge of the soum-center. We are now trying our best to process all the incoming waste through reusing or recycling channels, on site or via specialized partners outside the soum.
However, no matter how much effort people can make at individual level, no significant improvement can be achieved if industries don’t change their practices and stop producing so much waste with the goods they sell. We thus aim to produce data and lead communication campaigns to call them to respect their social responsibility obligations.
PROMOTION OF ECO-CONSTRUCTION AND PROPER HOUSE INSULATION
While all the nomads live in traditional gers, most of the sedentary people in the soum-center live in houses built of wood or concrete blocks. These blocks are essentially produced in urban industries, which is problematic for remote communities as they are totally dependent on their availability, expensive transportation and frequent market prices increases.
In addition, due to insufficient financial means, most houses are poorly or virtually not insulated. In a country where temperatures can drop below - 30 ° C for several months a year, it leads to a vicious circle of high heating costs and dramatic overconsumption of wood and coal to fuel stoves - even though forests are scarce and exploitation of fossil fuel is polluting and unsustainable.
ECOSOUM’S OBJECTIVE IS TO IMPROVE THE RESILIENCE OF RURAL COMMUNITIES TO CLIMATE CHANGE THROUGH THE DEVELOPMENT OF LOCALLY PRODUCED ECO-CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS AND THE PROMOTION OF PROPER HOUSE INSULATION.
Thanks to a specialized partner, our association has introduced a compressed earth brick (CEB) technique which enables producing local construction materials that are more eco-friendly and better quality than most blocks commonly used in the village. Local people have been trained and organized to create sustainable jobs in the process.
A prototype house was built to locally demonstrate the relevance of this technique and this new building was properly insulated so that everyone understands the paramount importance of insulation. Households will be trained and given material so that they can insulate their own homes.
Relevant accomplishments in Khishig-Undur will be replicated in other soums of the province. Informative and guidance materials and videos will also be produced so that the newly introduced techniques can be spread widely throughout the entire country.
DEVELOPMENT OF AGRO-ECOLOGY AND FOOD SOVEREIGNTY
While Mongolia is historically self-sufficient in meat and dairy products at national and local scale, this is far from the case for vegetables.
Climatic conditions (cold and aridity) have always been too unfavorable for agriculture to become deeply rooted in traditional Mongolian practices.
At national level, Mongolian vegetable production covers only 60% of the needs, the rest being dependent on imports (often of dubious quality).
Many soums do not produce any vegetable and are struggling to be supplied, due to the weakness of transport and storage infrastructures.
ECOSOUM’S OBJECTIVE IS TO ACHIEVE FOOD SOVEREIGNTY AT THE SOUM LEVEL THROUGH THE DEVELOPMENT OF LOCAL AGRO-ECOLOGICAL VEGETABLE AND FRUIT PRODUCTION THAT IS SUFFICIENT TO SUPPLY YEAR-ROUND THE ENTIRE POPULATION.
In order to increase vegetable production, we have been working to create a community agro-park on a 6.2ha piece of land. In close collaboration with the soum’s civil servant agronomist, we are supporting the established and new professional farmers with equipment and trainings, so that the total yields progressively reach the local demand for vegetables.
At the same time, we are trying to rehabilitate an abandoned 10ha seabuckthorn orchard that is to be jointly managed by approximately 20 local families. As this endemic fruit is extremely appreciated in Mongolia and used in a very wide range of products, supporting its cultivation is one of the best ways to create sustainable jobs with decent incomes in rural areas.
Finally, we plan to renovate the village’s old cellar – which is currently in ruin – with good construction practices following the bioclimatic models that have already proved efficient in Mongolia and other countries. This rehabilitation will enable year-round vegetable preservation and supply to the soum’s population so as to truly ensure food sovereignty.
RESTORATION OF A MORE SUSTAINABLE LIVESTOCK BREEDING SYSTEM
Intensive industrial farming is almost non-existent in Mongolia, but the sustainability of the traditional extensive pastoralism has become severely compromised.
Over the past thirty years, the unregulated growth of the national herd and the growing dominance of goat herds have brought the country into a chronic crisis of overgrazing that threatens the steppes with desertification.
Herders are increasingly vulnerable to dzuds (extreme winters where forage is scarce), which regularly decimate millions of animals and lead to bankruptcy.
This vicious circle is maintained by the low value of livestock products. Families are forced to increase their herds and favor goats to produce cashmere (their only profitable product), even though it exacerbates the overgrazing issue.
ECOSOUM’S OBJECTIVE IS TO FIGHT OVERGRAZING AND RESTORE THE SUSTAINABILITY OF TRADITIONAL HERDING THROUGH A COLLECTIVE AND DEMOCRATIC STRATEGY FOR LIVESTOCK AND PASTURE MANAGEMENT, AS WELL AS BETTER LIVESTOCK PRODUCTS VALUE.
As most issues of the Mongolian breeding system lay in its vulnerability to the international market and the unfair competition of cheap industrial products, we think that, unfortunately, the overall situation of pastures and herder communities can only be significantly and sustainably improved through voluntarist protective policies taken at the national level. However, we believe that such necessary changes can only be obtained if herders unite to fight for their rights and the future of their ancestral way of life.
This powerful herder union should be built democratically from the bottom up, through local Pasture User Groups (PUG), which should be in charge of setting and respecting their own herd regulation objectives. Alongside their struggle at the national level with a federative approach, PUGs seem to be the only relevant manner to lead cooperative efforts at local level, so as to find common ways to cope with the unfavourable general situation they have to work in.
In this context, Ecosoum tries to put itself at the disposal of local herder communities, not to tell them what they should do but to help them meet their expressed needs - whether regarding construction of infrastructures (wells and shelters), access to veterinary services and trainings in animal health, or the establishment of emergency forage stocks. Finding ways to increase the value of livestock products, preferably through local channels, also appears as an absolute priority.
STRENGTHENING OF AUTONOMY AND RESILIENCE OF SOUM COMMUNITIES
At a time when serious threats (climate change, inequalities, overconsumption, loss of biodiversity, various pollutions, etc.) pose a serious risk of general collapse on our globalized civilization, it has become urgent to undertake a societal transition and to strengthen the resilience of communities, in order to mitigate the probable devastating effects of the upheavals to come.
This necessary transformation can only find its effectiveness through greater local autonomy and the adoption of more sober and cooperative lifestyles. Agriculture, breeding, waste management, construction and energy are obvious fields of action, but many other are just as important. It is actually the soum’s entire economy that we must find a way to strengthen as much as possible, by offering everyone a role to play in their community.
ECOSOUM’S OBJECTIVE IS TO STRENGTHEN SOUM’S AUTONOMY AND RESILIENCE BY SUPPORTING COOPERATIVE, ARTISANAL PRODUCTION OF GOODS AND SERVICES USEFUL TO THE LOCAL POPULATION AND CONSISTENT WITH SOBER AND SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLES, WHILE REDUCING UNEMPLOYMENT AND INEQUALITIES.
As informal activities represent a large portion the rural economy, no one seems to have a clear overview of all the goods and services currently produced in the soum. Therefore, we are trying to establish an accurate inventory of local productions, in order to precisely identify the needs and opportunities.
Ecosoum will then endeavor to support any initiative, both public and private, helping to strengthen the autonomy and resilience of the soum. The association wishes to make available collaborative workshops, equipment, and even funding through micro-credits and grants, in order to enable the development of new productions.
To support this autonomous economic development, our association seeks to support the formalization of small, local cooperative companies wishing to produce goods and services useful to the community. We try to encourage local products’ trade or barter through local distribution channels within the soum, in a way that favors local goods over imports.
In order to best meet the all the needs expressed by the population, Ecosoum seeks to support any type of local initiative that can contribute to strengthening the autonomy and resilience of soums - even beyond Khishig-Undur and outside the above topics. If you have ideas for collaboration or need our support, feel free to contact us.