COMDEKS Project: Central Selenge, Mongolia
SUBMITTED ORGANISATION :
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Ministry of the Environment, Japan; Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity; United Nations University (UNU)
DATE OF SUBMISSION :
Mongolia (Central Mongolia)
The Community Development and Knowledge Management for the Satoyama Initiative Programme (COMDEKS) was launched in 2011 to support local community activities that maintain and rebuild target production landscapes and seascapes, and to collect and disseminate knowledge and experiences from successful on-the-ground actions so that, if feasible, they can be adapted by other communities throughout the world to their specific conditions. The programme provides small-scale finance to local community organizations in developing countries to support sound biodiversity and ecosystem management as well as to develop or strengthen sustainable livelihood activities planned and executed by community members themselves. The target landscape selected as the focus for COMDEKS projects in Mongolia is the Central Selenge area. Located in Central Mongolia, the landscape stretches from the southeast towards the north, covering 628,856 ha of mostly forest steppe and mountain territories, as well as cultivated lands.
Grassland, Pasture management, Soil depletion, Livestock management, Poverty reduction
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
The summary sheet for this case study is available here.
The target landscape selected as the focus for COMDEKS projects in Mongolia is the Central Selenge area. Located in Central Mongolia, the landscape stretches from the southeast towards the north, covering 628,856 ha of mostly forest steppe and mountain territories, as well as cultivated lands. Administratively, the area extends into seven different soums (rural districts). Lying in a transitional zone between the boreal forests of Siberia and the Mongolian steppe, Selenge is one of the main crop and vegetable growing areas in the country and is home to a large animal and plant biodiversity. The region’s forest steppe and mountain ecosystems border two state protected areas, the Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area and Tujiin Nars National Park, and contain a considerable number of community-protected forest areas as well.
Biological Resources and Land Use
The target landscape is home to diverse ecosystems, including considerable wildlife such as bears, lynxes, foxes and wolves, along with various species of birds and fish. Forests cover approximately one third of the landscape, with pine and larch being the predominant trees. Pine nuts and various types of mushrooms are widely available, and the area is rich in wild fruits such as strawberry, red currant, black currant, blueberry, blackberry, black cherry, sea buckthorn and raspberry.
Composed of well-developed river systems, protected areas and community forests, the area has a relatively high number of community forestry groups compared to other regions in the country. These groups receive only administrative support from the local government. As in other areas in Mongolia, land in the target area is state-owned, with the exception of land in and around settlement areas that is slowly being privatized. Pastures are free for use everywhere in the country, and cropland is rented to farmers for up to 60 years.
Due to its natural forest cover and topography, the target area holds great potential for agroforestry development. However, environmental stability in the region is currently at risk due to several factors, including forest and water depletion, climate change and environmental pollution.
With a population of about 42,500 originating from the major Mongolian ethnic khalkh group, the Central Selenge region has strong social networks. Unemployment rates are low, ranging between 6 and 14 percent, with crop farming, animal husbandry and mining being the primary economic activities. Cropland covers 88,437 ha, of which 56,625 ha are cultivated with wheat, 3,483 ha with potato and vegetables, 3,819 ha with fodder crops, 310 ha with fruits and 24,200 ha lie fallow. Livestock includes horses, cattle, sheep, goats and a small number of camels. The total number of livestock in the target landscape averages 600,000 animals, but this number fluctuates from year to year and also throughout the year.
In the region, the primary socioeconomic concern is widespread poverty coupled with increasing inequality. Poverty is a recent phenomenon in Mongolia. Until about 1990, there was virtually no poverty in rural areas. The government and rural collectives made sure that everyone was supplied with basic goods and access to a full range of public services. Poverty is a direct consequence of the transition to a market economy in the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Mongolia’s centrally planned economy. Benefits and assistance dried up with the privatization of industry and state farms. Incomes shrank, inflation devoured purchasing power, and people had to bear the cost of health and education services. Presently, one in three people in Mongolia are poor, and the number of poor people grows as the income gap widens. Poverty is becoming entrenched not only in urban centers but also in rural areas, where about half of the country’s poor people live.
Additionally, over the last 20 years, there has been an increase in the migration of rural herders towards settlement areas. Three towns are situated in the target landscape, namely Darkhan, Sukhbaatar and Zuunkharaa. As rural people lose livestock and crops due to environmental degradation and the heightened frequency of natural disasters—such as droughts and worsening climate change effects—they can no longer survive on agriculture, and move to urban areas seeking employment.
Key Environmental and Social Challenges
The principal environmental and social vulnerabilities in the target area center around environmental and ecosystem degradation, which are further exacerbated by climate change. Since the region is crippled by widespread poverty, environmental deterioration has disproportionately serious consequences for the local population.
Key environmental and social challenges include:
- Forest depletion: The forestry sector suffers from a lack of investment, an inadequately trained workforce, obsolete machinery and unclear institutional responsibilities.
- Illegal logging and timber extraction: There are considerable human influences on forest ecosystems in the region, including timber cutting, overgrazing and forest fires. Due to industrial development, wood consumption has increased, leading to unsustainable timber removal, with about 60 percent of the total harvest being illegal.
- Weakened institutional structures: Until recently, forest degradation was exacerbated by the absence of strong community-based forest management organizations, corruption at all levels of management and inefficient financial management. In this respect, the institutionalization of participatory forestry management is another challenge in the near future.
- Overgrazing and depleted pastures: Within the last two decades, pastures have degraded at an increasing rate due to harsh weather conditions and an increase in the concentration of livestock and people. Grazing pressure by livestock has the most significant impact on pasture in the target area, contributing to its rapid depletion.
- Climate change and extreme weather events: Over the last six decades, Mongolia has experienced a 1.8°C increase in annual mean temperatures, changes in the duration of heat and cold waves and changes in the pattern and predictability of rainfall. Extreme weather events such as drought and dzud (an extremely cold and snowy winter) have also increased in frequency and intensity. All of these phenomena are attributable to or aggravated by climate change, and will put a further strain on ecosystem services and the agriculture sector in the future.
- Water source depletion: High mountain glaciers are melting at a rapid rate and permafrost is degrading significantly. The groundwater level is falling and land degradation and desertification have worsened as a result of water shortages and the lack of precipitation.
- Loss of biodiversity: The target area possesses a number of internationally threatened animal and plant species. These biological resources have faced an increasing threat from illegal hunting, land degradation, water shortages and climate change, combined with urbanization and industrial expansion and a growing population. Moreover, poor governance and law enforcement, along with the rapid development of urban settlements, have greatly contributed to the loss of biodiversity in the area.
- Poverty and inequality: Poverty is a widespread issue in Mongolia, with the poverty rate stable at 36 percent since the early 1990s. Poverty is higher in rural areas than in urban areas (43.4 percent vs. 28.6 percent), with an increasing gap between the rich and poor.
- Migration: Over the last 20 years, the migration of rural herders to settlement areas has become a widespread phenomenon. Being employed in the agricultural sector increases the chances of being poor, due to the loss of livestock caused by environmental deterioration and frequent natural disasters like dzud, in which livestock are unable to find fodder through the snow cover.
Perimeter trees protect crops from wind damage in Selenge Province, COMDEKS Mongolia
COMDEKS Activities, Achievements, and Impacts
Community Consultation and Baseline Assessment
The Baseline Assessment conducted by the Sustainable Development-Environment Foundation in 2013 included the participation of a range of community groups, government representatives, civil society organizations, and other local stakeholders in the Central Selenge target area. Several workshops involving 36 participants were held, both with stakeholders and community groups, where participants gave scores to SEPL indicators using the Resilience Indicator Scorecard. Community members and other stakeholders outlined several types of projects that addressed some of the problems faced by the region, with activities ranging from diversification of agricultural landscapes and agroforestry systems, to constructing local dams and ponds, and the promotion of ecotourism and agrotourism in the region.
The Baseline Assessment and Community Consultation led to the COMDEKS Landscape Strategy for Mongolia, which identifies four main outcomes along with their respective impact indicators to measure progress towards these outcomes. The overall objective of the Mongolia Landscape Strategy is to improve ecosystem resilience and the resilience of production systems through the development of sound biodiversity management and sustainable livelihood activities with local communities to maintain, rebuild and revitalize socio-ecological production landscapes. This goal is broken down into four Landscape Outcomes along with Key Performance Indicators, as detailed in the Table M-1 below.
Table M-1. Landscape Outcomes and Indicators from the Mongolia Landscape Strategy
|Landscape Outcomes||Key Performance Indicators|
Biodiversity conservation strengthened and ecosystem services restored, by linking or cohering advanced farming and traditional livelihood practices with protection of and conservation measures in community protected areas.
· Number of hectares within the landscape protected for their ecological and cultural importance.
Food security in the target landscape enhanced by increasing productivity and sustainability of agro-ecosystems through agroforestry, watershed restoration, agrobiodiversity management and farming practice diversification.
· Type and number of resilience-enhancing agricultural practices introduced to promote food security.
· Number of hectares within the target landscape where innovative practices in agricultural biodiversity management are promoted.
· Percent of local population that is under-nourished.
Livelihoods of communities enhanced through diversification of agricultural products, income-generating activities and development of community livelihood enterprises.
· Increase in household income and assets as a result of supported activities.
· Number of alternative income sources created through livelihood diversification.
· Number of people practicing sustainable land use management and other eco- friendly non-agricultural activities
Institutional governance systems created and/or strengthened through participatory decision making processes and knowledge sharing at the landscape level.
· Number of community groups established or strengthened that are engaged in integrated landscape management.
· Number and type of policies influenced at the local, landscape, and national levels.
· Number of best practices and lessons learned shared among landscape stakeholders.
Processing green fodder for cattle feed during cold weather, Selenge Province, COMDEKS Mongolia
Community-Led Landscape Projects
To guide the selection of local projects, the Landscape Strategy identifies key areas of focus and suggests a number of projects along with project selection criteria to help guide the development of project proposals. Key focus areas are projects that promote the diversification of agricultural landscapes and agroforestry systems, as well as forest and ecosystem restoration activities that will enhance landscape resilience and connectivity. The landscape strategy suggests activities to achieve the individual outcomes, such as:
Outcome 1: Biodiversity conservation strengthened and ecosystem services restored, by linking or cohering advanced farming and traditional livelihood practices with protection of and conservation measures in community protected areas:
- Forest and ecosystem restoration activities that also enhance landscape connectivity and increase landscape resilience;
- Restoration of river water flows and water quality by protecting and enhancing forest ecosystem services;
- Promotion of multipurpose and multi-tree plantations to improve ecosystem resilience as well as to support local livelihoods;
- Promotion of eco- and agrotourism and establishment of visitor centers.
Outcome 2: Food security in the target landscape enhanced by increasing productivity and sustainability of agroecosystems through agroforestry, watershed restoration, agrobiodiversity management and farming practice diversification:
- Community garden development in areas under a community forestry scheme;
- Restoration of riparian areas, wetlands and watersheds;
- Support for initiatives on crop diversification, livestock production and crop-livestock-trees integration.
Outcome 3: Livelihoods of communities enhanced through diversification of agricultural products, income-generating activities and development of community livelihood enterprises.
- Construction of community ponds/dams to accumulate and regulate small stream and spring flows to use for restoration, conservation and livelihood improvement purposes;
- Diversification of agricultural landscapes and agroforestry systems, including silvo-pastures, windbreaks, shelterbelts, riparian forest buffers and integration of crops, livestock and trees in the context of climate change adaption;
- Support for bee-keeping activities and strengthening existing bee-keeping associations;
- Activities supporting diversification of livelihoods and income generation connected to biodiversity conservation;
- Support for handicraft production;
- Promotion of fertilizer production using livestock manure;
- Introduction and use of community wood-saving and wood-replacing technologies.
Outcome 4: Institutional governance systems created and/or strengthened through participatory decision making processes and knowledge sharing at the landscape level.
- Capacity building for local governance on issues related to landscape problems and opportunities through policy dialogue, etc.;
- Establishment of participatory decision-making and planning processes/mechanisms and knowledge sharing;
- Establishment of local working groups, networks or associations of community organizations;
- Improvement of access to credit and markets through development of appropriate business plans.
Local CBO members explore new avenues for marketing their products, COMDEKS Mongolia
Landscape Project Portfolio
Based on this guidance, 20 projects were selected as part of COMDEKS Mongolia’s portfolio of landscape projects,
with grants ranging from US$12,580 to US$32,401 (see Table M-2).
Table M-2. COMDEKS Community-Led Projects in Central Selenge, Mongolia
|Project||Grantee (NGO/Civic Association)
|Contribution to Landscape Resilience Outcomes
|Community Development Integrated With the Management of Tujiin Nars Protected Area||Bayanchatsargana Khos Bayankhangai
|Outcomes 1, 2, 4||Establish a collectively managed green zone to increase community resilience, reduce overgrazing and combat land degradation by assisting communities to introduce new conservation and livelihoods enhancement practices, which in turn contribute to improved capacities and knowledge of community members to promote sustainable farming and environmental consciousness. Activities include growing fodder and vegetables, setting up greenhouses and enriching soil in order to improve livelihoods and sustainability.|
|Riparian Area Development and Grazing Management Near Baruunharaa Village||Tod Kharaa, Kharaagyn Khishig, Devshil
|Outcomes 1, 3, 4||Develop adaptive community management of the riparian area by demonstrating their ability to conduct combined protective and livelihood enhancing activities, like adaptive pasture management, that will ultimately contribute to the rehabilitation of land and pastures on the river bank.|
|Developing Production Landscapes Adjacent to Community Protected Areas||Teregt, DH Oyu, Eden and Baigali Eej Mungulung ur (SGP supported)
|Outcomes 1, 3||Increase the productivity of pastures and landscapes by coordinating conservation activities and strengthening the collaborative support of community protected areas. Create new income-generating activities by establishing community fruit gardens, beekeeping activities, and reforestation initiatives and by making handicrafts.|
|Protecting and Enhancing Forest Ecosystem Services by Practicing Nature- Supporting and Income-Generating Activities||Eviin Khuch, Urun Baigal, Ulaan Biluut, Bat
|Outcomes 1, 3, 4||Enhance forest ecosystem services by raising seedlings for afforestation, planting willow trees along springs and small streams and fruit trees in community gardens located in community forestry practice areas, and by developing ecotourism in the area. Enhance governance of community forests through collective management of community conserved areas (CCAs). Generate income through production of nontraditional products such as tomato, buckwheat, potato, barley, wild onion and garlic.|
|Strengthening Orhon Beekeeping Communities and Community Garden Development to Advance and Educate Communities||Erdenet Zogii
|Outcome 3, 4||Strengthen local beekeeping communities by building capacities, increasing product yields and improving the packaging of honey. Establish community gardens to educate, train and support beekeepers in planting and raising honey plants and bees.|
|Introduction of Wood-Saving/Soil Bag Construction Technology and Initiation of Agrotourism||Clean Energy
|Outcome 3||Introduce a “soil bag construction technology,” where soil bags replace wooden materials used to construct walls. Activities involve training in the use of this technology and the construction of four small ”soil bag houses” as demonstration sites. These houses will be used to accommodate tourists who wish to stay with the community, thus building a foundation for the development of eco- and agrotourism in the region.|
|Handcrafting and Capacity Building for Knowledge Management||Duuren Sanaa
|Outcome 3||Provide training in the production of souvenirs and handicrafts from beeswax, wood, wool and nontimber forest resources to improve income-generating capacities of communities.|
|Community-Based Riparian Ecosystem Protection Initiative||Nutag Action Research Institute
|Outcome 2||Rehabilitate 10 km of the Kharaa river banks near Tunkhel village in Selenge Province in close cooperation with local community groups by establishing a river protection/sanitary zone along the river, restoring pasture land on both river banks, planting fast-growing trees and setting up recreation facilities for both locals and tourists.|
|Knowledge and Technology Transfer Centre for Local Communities||Clean Energy
|Outcome 3||Set up a “Satoyama Initiative” community technology transfer center built with soil bag construction technology to provide consultancy services on a range of rural environmental issues and challenges, conduct trainings, transfer community- applicable technology and spread knowledge and lessons learned to communities.|
|Strengthening COMDEKS Communities’ Capacity in Institutional Development and Participation in Governance||Fund for Citizen’s Ecological Education
|Outcome 4||Establish a “Green Wave” Satoyama Initiative Promotion Center in Tunkhel village to continue assisting COMDEKS communities in Mongolia. The Center will spread the spirit of the Satoyama Initiative, including the COMDEKS landscape resilience approach, to neighboring communities as well as to other regions. It will conduct regular activities, including adaptive management trainings and consultancies to achieve continuing progress toward the four COMDEKS landscape outcomes.|
|On-Line Selling and Intermediary Services for Biodiversity Products of Communities Experiencing Satoyama Initiative||Center for Nomadic Mongol
|Outcome 3||Assist COMDEKS and SGP grantees in accessing markets with their biodiversity and agrobiodiversity products by designing and running an on-line trade fair (e-commerce platform), which will be a principally new channel for selling ecologically clean products in the country.|
|Community Seed Banks||Great Roots Seedling Raisers’ Association
|Outcomes 1, 3||Initiate community seed collection to promote community seed libraries or banks to improve food security and income generation, conserve genetic diversity of crops and make use of a wider range of genes, species and ecosystems by collecting and preserving native seeds.|
|Mandal’s Future: Agrotourism||Mandakh-Enerelt
|Outcomes 1, 3||Promote community-based agrotourism combined with ecotourism conducted in community protected areas around Tunkhel village as an innovative approach towards sustainable agriculture and tourism in the target landscape.|
|Mongolian New Satoyama Groups: Community Participatory Landscape Planning for Biodiversity Conservation, Ecosystem Resilience and Sustainability.||Cradle of Intellect
|Outcome 4||Conduct a participatory landscape planning exercise for four distinct locations in the COMDEKS target area to identify activities to be followed over the next few years to further ensure biodiversity conservation, ecosystem resilience and sustainability in the target landscape with initial activities such as field studies, data collection, processing and analyzing, and ultimately collaborative planning with all stakeholders, based on current achievements and results of implementation of a number of COMDEKS grants in the target area.|
|Supporting Community Forestry Groups by Providing Consultancy Services on Drying Vegetables and Producing Food Additives for Local Markets||Metastori
|Outcome 3||Assist COMDEKS communities in redesigning and improving traditional dairy products as well as in producing new biodiversity products. Includes introduction of a drying technology to increase food production during summer time, when communities usually forego many opportunities to produce food due to lack of cool storage.|
|Creating Green Jobs and Livelihood Income Sources with Agro-Ecological and Agro-Biological Measures||Rich Fertilizer
|Outcomes 2, 3||Promote community enterprises to produce organic fertilizers by composting livestock manure as an agroecological measure to improve soil structure and fertility, thereby decreasing the use of chemical/mineral fertilizers, creating green jobs with alternative income sources and promoting low-input agriculture.|
|Bio-Fertilizer||Green Guard Center
|Outcomes 2, 3||Introduce a vermicomposting practice among 23 community groups as a principally new activity to produce bio-fertilizer or organic fertilizer. This practice could make use of the annual 3 million tons of livestock manure. Mongolia overall counts 50-55 million head of livestock, emphasizing the large national potential for vermicomposting for organic fertilizer.|
|Kharaa River Willow Grove||Munkhtsetseg Tal
|Outcome 2||Support local community efforts to protect and rehabilitate the Kharaa riverbanks, an important ecosystem keeping the river alive. Activities include fencing the riparian protection zones of the river and planting over 4,000 willow trees within the fence boundary.|
|Improvement of Farming Systems to Support Ecosystem Services in Satoyama Landscape||Women Environment and Development
|Outcomes 1, 2||Encourage and assist smallholder crop and vegetable farmer communities to implement agroecological measures. These include creation of green belts around crop and vegetable fields, and promotion of organic fertilizers to improve soil quality and increase yields at the same time.|
|A Baseline Landscape Evaluation After the Implementation of the Community Development and Knowledge Management for the Satoyama Initiative (COMDEKS) Project||Fruit Mother Garden
|Outcome 4||Conduct ex-post baseline assessments to evaluate the implementation of the COMDEKS Landscape Strategy in Mongolia as well as to further promote an adaptive management process among COMDEKS communities. This includes producing case study material, conducting community consultations and acquiring information about the current state of the landscape to adjust goals and approaches, if necessary, and to ultimately inform new planning and action.|
Achievements and Impacts to Date
- Transforming community views of the landscape and encouraging joint action: The new concepts of the landscape brought by COMDEKS along with its new measurement approach using “indicators of resilience” have changed the way local people think about their pastures, forests, and fields. Communities are now well aware of the Satoyama concept and understand the importance of production landscapes to environmental protection and overall ecosystem functioning. The significance of joint action or activities directed at an ecosystem level is now well recognized by communities. As COMDEKS’ integrated approach has been applied, cooperation among community groups as well as different community members has increased and strengthened. In fact, COMDEKS’ landscape projects have helped activate and socialize communities, ensuring broader participation, and also strengthening the local organizations leading these projects. The net effect is that communities are more prepared now to work together to achieve landscape-level benefits.
- Practicing better pasture management: Pasture conditions and soil quality have been improved through better management of cattle in pasture areas. One key strategy in this effort is the growing of two types of green fodder to ease pressure on pastures during winter, fall, and spring. Using this approach, animals are kept in shelters and fed green fodders during the cool seasons that have been reserved for that purpose, thereby keeping pastures from being overgrazed. Herders report that livestock kept this way are fitter and more productive than those pastured year round. Due to its success, communities such as Altanbulag that have piloted this approach are now ready to allocate additional land to growing green fodder.
- Instituting agroecology practices to reduce agricultural impacts: Communities have taken steps to reduce the environmental impact of their farms and increase their production through sustainable practices. One such practice is planting green belts around their vegetable and crop fields, which function as wind breaks and erosion control barriers. Some 300,000 tree seedlings have been planted so far around smallholder farmer fields. Another practice is the manufacture of organic bio-fertilizers by composting animal dung to enrich soil fertility and improve soil structure, as well as to decrease the use of chemical fertilizers. Sixteen communities have begun manure composting, producing some 30 tons of bio-fertilizer in the first year. In a related effort, 23 communities have instituted a vermicomposting practice, in which earthworms produce compost from animal dung. Dung is widely available in the area due to the large number of livestock raised locally.
- Creating community seed banks: In an attempt to conserve genetic diversity of local food crops and improve food security, communities are in the process of creating local seed banks of native foods. After receiving training last year on seed collecting, communities are now embarking on organized seed collection campaigns as the basis for local seed banks.
- Restoring river riparian areas: Two COMDEKS projects have rehabilitated degraded sections of riverbank along the Kharaa River and protected river riparian zones through fencing, pasture management, and revegetating the riverside area by planting over 4,000 willows and other fast-growing trees within the fenced protection zone. Since farming communities tend to locate near the river, riparian management has become a high priority. Greenhouses have been set up to raise willow and other seedlings, both for use in the restoration work and for income generation. In addition to river bank restoration, recreational facilities were also constructed along the river for the use of both tourists and local people along a 10-km river section near Tunkhel village.
- Planting community fruit gardens and mixed vegetable gardens: Six community fruit gardens have been established and planted with some 8,000 fruit trees that will begin bringing in revenue in 2017. In addition, eight existing community gardens have been strengthened and expanded with COMDEKS assistance. These gardens have not only added to local food security, but have become important social gathering places and centers of local development. Another contribution to local food security has been the introduction and field testing of a solar drying technology which allows preservation of local dairy and vegetable products that formerly could not be preserved during summer months due to lack of refrigeration.
- Developing alternative income sources: A number of new income-generating activities have been piloted and promoted in the Central Selenge area through COMDEKS projects. Local beekeeping has been strengthened with the addition of new hives and capacity building to increase product yields and improve honey packaging. Efforts were also made to train beekeepers in raising plants in community gardens that promote honey production. Over the last two years, about nine tons of honey have been produced, yielding over US$80,000 in revenue. Handicraft production has also been promoted, with 64 community members receiving training in crafting products of wool, wood, and beeswax. Some 2,000 woolen items have already been produced; a local trade fair and on-line sales (through a recently designed e-commerce platform) have been organized to provide outlets for these products. Fruit and ornamental tree seedlings are also being mass produced now for sale, with the 600,000 raised so far netting some US$187,000.
- Creating a tourism infrastructure and training tourism skills: Seven communities in Mandal soum were assisted with identifying tourism products and establishing hiking and walking routes in community protected areas. They also received training in basic tourism services. At the same time, an innovative construction technology using soil-filled bags to form walls was used to construct three houses to provide tourist lodgings in the area. The soil bag construction technique, developed at the Hiroshima University of Japan, reduces expense and replaces the use of wood for structural stability. Ecotourism and agrotourism will commence in summer 2016.
COMDEKS landscape projects in Central Selenge have strengthened local organizations and broadened community participation, COMDEKS Mongolia
Progress at the Landscape Level
Prior to COMDEKS projects, community groups in the target landscape primarily acted individually and separately. The COMDEKS landscape approach has brought communities together to act collaboratively at the landscape level, calling for collective action and joint activities to achieve common goals and integrated objectives. It has had the effect of mobilizing communities at a larger scale, along with removing financial and technical barriers faced by community groups. It has also supported increased transparency and accountability of community activities. At the same time, local authorities have developed a positive attitude toward communities involved in COMDEKS projects due to their strengthened capacity and well-organized nature. This has had the effect of creating a much more dynamic and interactive atmosphere among the 20 local CBOs and associations that have participated directly in COMDEKS in the target landscape. These local organizations have formed an association, called Mongol Satoyama Group, to unite and coordinate their future work. In 2015, they built a community development center in Tunkhel Village where, beginning in 2016, they will convene community dialogues, meetings, special trainings and adaptive management seminars, and landscape planning sessions to carry on the COMDEKS work. Already, the group has participated in a landscape planning exercise as a follow-on to the COMDEKS projects, in which activities in four distinct places in the COMDEKS target area were identified to be carried out over the next few years to continue the work on biodiversity conservation, ecosystem resilience and sustainability begun under the COMDEKS Programme. The Mongol Satoyama Group thus has the potential to form the backbone of a true landscape community. It could even become a regional institution to raise awareness and lead landscape activities in the future, not only in the Central Selenge, but in the whole country. A new SGP grant has been approved to support the development of the Mongol Satoyama Group into this kind of participatory decision-making and knowledge-sharing body, and to provide technical assistance.
- Prior to COMDEKS activities in the target landscape, communities were indifferent towards taking conservation measures in socio-ecological production landscapes, presuming that these landscapes were for farming and industrial activities and would remain so in the future. The COMDEKS Programme has changed this attitude and broadened their understanding of modern environmental protection concepts and perspectives. The use of resilience indicators was a key part of this attitude change. The use of these indicators was valuable not only for community members, but also for government and other stakeholders to better understand the state of the environment, plan relevant activities at the landscape level, and evaluate project results and outcomes.
- While the concept of SEPLs and the Satoyama principles have been powerful ideas in the target landscape, they have also been a challenge to apply to grassland ecosystems, where there seems to be less experience worldwide. To be best oriented for the future application of the landscape approach in Mongolia, the SGP Mongolia team will need to do some additional research and experimentation, including internet searches for best practices in grasslands, as well as a participatory planning exercise among local groups with the clear goal of realizing the Satoyama concept on Mongolian soil.
- There is a traditional proverb in Mongolia which says: better to see once than to listen 100 times. Since we are close to Japan, some grantees have expressed their interest in seeing the original Satoyama lands in order to learn more and gain a deeper understanding, even at their own expense! More video presentations on Satoyama lands would be desirable for communities to view and understand the concept of landscape sustainability.
Local products bring increased income, COMDEKS Mongolia