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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Indigenous Support Needed: To Preserve The Unique Environment and Culture of Mongolia’s Reindeer Herders

Kautokeino (Norway) / Nairobi – Mongolia’s reindeer herders and their forest homeland are facing unprecedented challenges from unregulated mining, logging, water pollution, climate change and some tourism practices, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 

The study outlines a number of strategies, including increasing reindeer herd sizes and closer monitoring of land use change, that can support both the herders’ ancient culture and the sustainable development of their homeland: the taiga.

Also known as the boreal forests, the taiga is the world’s largest biome, forming an almost continuous cover of coniferous forests in subarctic North America and Eurasia.

The UNEP report Changing Taiga: Challenges for Mongolia’s Reindeer Herders, is based on field investigations and numerous interviews with members of Mongolia’s rural Dukha community – of which only 200 or so members remain.

The report is the result of a direct request to UNEP from Mongolia’s Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism to assess the situation of the country’s reindeer herders and explore ways to guarantee their future livelihoods, as well as the sustainable management of the taiga ecosystem.

Of particular concern to the herders, finds the UNEP study, is the growth in unregulated, small-scale artisanal mining, which results in deforestation, forest fires, chemical contamination and poisoning of water sources. Reindeer herders have already abandoned some pastures in the western sections of their range because of damage caused by mining for gold, as well as green and white jade.

Published by: Silja Somby

“The taiga – the Dukha homeland - is a hotspot for biodiversity and is rich in natural resources, but it is also one of the regions of Mongolia which could suffer the greatest impacts of climate change over the coming decades,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director.

In short, the challenges facing the herders spotlighted in this report are a microcosm of those facing communities large and small across the world – namely how to transition to a sustainable future that generates jobs and livelihoods without pushing past the limits of sustainability”, added Mr. Steiner.

According to the study, the transformation of Mongolia to a market economy in the 1990s resulted in eight million livestock being added to Mongolia’s pastures, significantly affecting traditional herding practices and the dynamics with the environment.

Erratic weather patterns are also taking their toll. Seven out of the ten most disastrous droughts and extreme winter events (known locally as ‘dzuds’) recorded since 1940 have occurred since 2000, resulting in widespread livestock deaths. For the full story see link below.

Full Story: Galdu ~ Resource Center for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

New report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Changing Taiga: Challenges for Mongolia’s Reindeer Herders