FIELDS OF ACTION
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 DEVELOP A LOCAL, SUSTAINABLE AND ECOLOGICAL AGRICULTURE CAPABLE OF PROVIDING VEGETABLES YEAR-ROUND TO THE SOUM’S POPULATION IN ORDER TO ENSURE ITS FOOD SOVEREIGNTY.
Since vegetable production in the soum is still very limited, Ecosoum seeks primarily to increase yields and the total cropping surface (which is less than 1 hectare today), both by supporting the few farmers who already work in Khishig-Undur and by encouraging other inhabitants to start a professional farm or a personal vegetable garden.
This support includes financial and technical assistance for the development of essential equipment such as passive solar greenhouses and efficient irrigation systems. More broadly, Ecosoum seeks to help farmers cope with all the difficulties they encounter and organises trainings on the topics of their choice.
Furthermore, Ecosoum is working to organize the sector and secure farmers' income, in particular through better marketing and greater added value from the vegetable processing. The construction of a community cellar will also facilitate to keep productions longer to ensure the vegetable supply for the entire soum throughout the year.
PROMOTION 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 twenty 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, DESERTIFICATION AND IMPACT OF DZUDS THROUGH A COLLECTIVE STRATEGY FOR SUSTAINABLE LIVESTOCK AND PASTURE MANAGEMENT, AS WELL AS BETTER LIVESTOCK PRODUCTS VALUE.
In order to promote a more efficient regulation of livestock numbers, the association will work with herders to set up Pastoral User Groups (PUG), which will be in charge of setting and respecting their own herd regulation objectives by defining a collective strategy.
Ecosoum will also seek to help herders to meet all their 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.
The association will finally try to promote better prices of livestock products. This will include setting up a marketing cooperative, as well as establishing small artisanal processing workshops based on local know-how.
IMPROVEMENT OF WASTE MANAGEMENT AND VALORIZATION
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 necessary to create a real model of efficient and local waste management.
ECOSOUM’S OBJECTIVE IS TO SET UP AN EFFICIENT AND SUSTAINABLE WASTE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM, BY PROMOTING WASTE SORTING 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 waste management platform will be set up at the edge of the soum-center. In this way, it will finally be possible to save and valorize recyclable materials - which constitute the bulk of household waste - on site or via specialized partners outside the
While the new system will respect the environment in the future, we also intend to repair the mistakes of the past in order to restore and protect the natural environment: the current open dumpsite will be progressively cleaned - by recovering a maximum of recyclable materials - and secured to prevent waste from spreading any further.
DEVELOPMENT OF RENEWABLE ENERGIES AND ECO-CONSTRUCTION
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. The latter are far from being efficient, especially in terms of energy efficiency.
In addition, the majority of Mongolian dwellings are heated with wood or coal, even though wood is limited with forests in only a few regions, and the exploitation of fossil fuel is polluting and unsustainable.
ECOSOUM’S OBJECTIVE IS TO LOCALLY PROMOTE DEVELOPMENT OF SOLAR AND WIND ENERGIES AND CONSTRUCTION OF MORE EFFICIENT, SUSTAINABLE, AND ECOLOGICAL BUILDINGS.
The association will thus seek to introduce new construction techniques offering maximum energy optimization with a low environmental impact. This will include taking inspiration from technologies that have already proved their relevance, such as Earthships or other types of tiny houses that use recycled waste.
In a country that is as sunny and windy as Mongolia, it is essential to seek to develop renewable solar and wind energy. The association will try to advocate the authorities for a global energy transition, but it will also manage to offer local solutions, such as the construction of small wind turbines.
In the absence of running water in the soum, houses could also benefit from integrating rainwater collection and storage systems, in order to limit dependence on public wells groundwater. In general, any technique able to increase the sustainability, autonomy and efficiency of the buildings will be encouraged.
STRENGTHENING OF SOUM’S AUTONOMY AND RESILIENCE
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 sustainable lifestyles. Agriculture, breeding, waste management, construction and energy are priority 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 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 an overview of the goods and services currently produced in the soum. The first step will therefore consist in establishing a precise 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 will try to make available collaborative workshops, equipment, and even funding through micro-credits, in order to enable the development of new productions.
To support this autonomous economic development, the association will seek to encourage the products’ trade or barter through local distribution channels within the soum. Cooperatives shall be created to support craftsmen and a local products’ shop will be opened in the village to facilitate marketing and favor local goods over imports.
ADVOCACY FOR THE DUPLICATION OF KHISHIG-UNDUR’S MODEL
In addition to the five major fields of action, an ongoing advocacy campaign will be conducted at the regional and national levels.
The aim will be to promote the local model of sustainable development set up in Khishig-Undur, aiming to encourage its reproduction in other soums of the country.
The association will seek on one hand to promote its actions and achievements in other soums. While it will also target the local authorities, it will mainly work to mobilize the populations, showing them the relevance of the measures taken in Khishig-Undur to encourage them to reproduce the same ideas in their soum.
This advocacy can take different forms, such as public meetings or training and knowledge-sharing workshops.
At the same time, advocacy will also target national authorities. The aim will be to promote the model of local development set up in Khishig-Undur, in order to encourage the government to support the approach in other soums.
More broadly, this advocacy work will aim to influence the national legislative context and integrate into public policies the good practices implemented in Khishig-Undur.
All these advocacy activities can only start in a second phase, once the other projects are sufficiently anchored and successful, and the association really legitimized.
But it is thanks to them that Ecosoum will be able to achieve its long-term objective, which is to improve the environment and the living conditions, not of a single soum, but of all the rural populations of Mongolia.