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Climate Change and Sustainable Herding in Mongolia

Many people in Mongolia depend on keeping livestock for their livelihoods. This dependency makes the country and especially the poor rural people highly vulnerable to climate-related hazards. This was shown again in the period 1999 to 2002 when three consecutive dzud years killed nearly 30% of the livestock and many rural households were struggling to survive. Recurring drought events have also led to reduced pasture growth and limited water availability further aggravating the poor living conditions of rural households.

Realizing the sensitivity of the livestock sector to climate-related hazards, many people have started to express their concerns about the potential negative effects of climate change on the already vulnerable rural population and in recent years various studies have been undertaken to further investigate the issue.

The NCAP project in Mongolia, which started in 2005 and ended in 2008, has tried to further the understanding of baseline vulnerabilities in Mongolia. Moreover, considerable efforts were made to increase public awareness of climate change in Mongolia through the publication of short articles in various newspapers and magazines and the broadcasting of television programs on climate change. The project team also collaborated with key policymakers to further build legal and institutional foundations for implementing climate change adaptation policies in Mongolia.

Methodology and tools

The methodology used for this case study included: downscaling of GCM data, trend analysis in pasture resources, development of a vegetation growth index, ground water resource analysis, and the administering of a survey to examine the livelihood conditions of rural herding households. Four interrelated studies were carried out to further develop the understanding of climate change vulnerabilities in Mongolia, with a special focus on rural herding communities. The study on climate change exposure and extreme events further builds on existing climate science work in Mongolia in three respects. Firstly, whereas previous studies have mainly focused on climate averages, this study has dealt with extreme climate events such as prolonged droughts and harsh winters (dzud). Secondly, the study provides an update on the historic trend analysis up to the year 2007. Finally, the PRECIS Regional Climate Model was used to downscale GCM data for key climate parameters and identify vulnerability hotspots in Mongolia.

Lessons Learned

One of the main lessons learned from this project was that, without a strong institutional environment, it is very hard to implement any adaptation policy or measure. Having realized this, the project team has sought to contribute to the process of institution building and has actively engaged with policy makers at different levels to bring up the issue of climate change adaptation.

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