Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Changing Taiga: Challenges for Mongolia’s Reindeer herders

The Dukrh are Pastoralist Nomads and are an ancient people of Turk descent. Their homeland is in the northern part of Mongolia, the ‘Taiga’. The Dukrh peoples follow a seasonal migratory pattern and are essentially self-sufficient. They are dependent both on reindeer and the forests where they hunt and in which their ancestors live. The families rely on the animals for their livelihood and also use them for transportation.

The Taiga is rich in biodiversity and natural resources and has been highlighted as an area which could negatively suffer from climate change. The wealth of biodiversity in the environment is a consequence of the unique relationship the Dukrh have had with the land. However this relationship and sustainable lifestyle is threatened. A recent United Nations Environmental Programme Report (UNEP) raises a number of concerns and recommendations. The Report (here) is part of the nomadic herders’ initiative.

Some concerns:
  • Introduction of 8 million livestock onto traditional Dukrh grazing since 1990
  • The unregulated mining of gold, white and green jade which in turn pollutes water sources
  • Unregulated logging
  • National parks which have curtailed the traditional grazing areas of the Dukrh.
  • Hunting laws which prevent the Dukrh carrying out their traditional sustainable way of life and impact on their food security
  • Erratic weather patterns which have caused many livestock deaths and impact on biodiversity
Main recommendations include:
  • Recording reindeer herder’s traditional knowledge of land use and natural resources, as well as traditional food and culture, to promote the conservation of biodiversity in the region
  • Closer monitoring of reindeer numbers, changes in migration routes, land use changes, industrial development, local climate variability and variables affecting the reindeer herding community and Taiga ecosystem
  • Formation of community partnerships to support biodiversity and traditional livelihoods of the Dukha reindeer herders
  • Evaluate current hunting regulations to identify how the laws affect reindeer herders’ access to food and income
  • Establish a programme to increase herd size and prevent and treat reindeer diseases, using both Western science and traditional knowledge
  • Provide assistance to develop local herders’ institutions, such as the reindeer herders’ information and knowledge centre in Tsagaannuur
  • Organise community round table discussions and field visits to promote mutual understanding and dialogue between herders, tourism operators, local government, and other stake holders on land and resources in reindeer herding areas.
  • Conduct an impact assessment of climate, environmental, and social and economic changes in the region, including tourism.
The Dukrh story is not atypical and there is evidence to suggest that particularly nomadic pastoralists are increasingly becoming marginalised. However pastoralists are a resource and pastoralsism produces meat and milk sustainably. One element in their survival is to disseminate information and an understanding of their valuable way of life and the above report seeks to do this.

Written by Fiona Batt.

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