Co-Management of Natural Resources in Mongolia

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Co-Management of Natural Resources in Mongolia

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Co-management refers to arrangements in which herders secure access to and share responsibility and authority with governments for managing natural resources. Roles and responsibilities of the stakeholders who manage livestock (privately owned), land and water (state owned), and other natural resources are established. Co-management teams including the various stakeholders play a key role.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In the early 1990s, Mongolia entered a period of profound change. For 70 years, the state had owned all the land and livestock. Planning and management were top-down with little influence in decision-making by local people. As Mongolia moved toward a market-oriented economy and democratic governance, private ownership of livestock was reintroduced. The state retained ownership of the land, but had limited capacity to manage it. The result was an open-access situation that put mounting pressure on a fragile ecosystem. Throughout the 1990s, the number of families engaged in herding more than doubled and the livestock population increased by 30%. Everywhere, pasture land became seriously overgrazed as a result of the unclear institutional context. Water resources dried up. Degradation is also affecting herders’ practice of moving between ecological zones. Tensions have started to emerge among herders. Achieving agreements on access to and use of these resources became a challenge.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Concerned about the health of the grasslands, the main source of income for the rural population, and the future of Mongolia’s unique way of living, a small group of Mongolians started to think about introducing new ideas and put them into practice. As a result, for the past decade, with the support of the International Development Research Centre of Canada, this small group of researchers, government officials and local herders, have been field-testing the co-management approach adapted to Mongolia’s unique political and socio-economic historical and agro-ecological conditions in four of the country’s representative ecosystems – desert steppe, dry forested steppe, forested steppe, and high (Altai) mountains. At the end of the 1990s, the idea of introducing co-management, field pilot testing and making it part of national policies and laws, during Mongolia’s transition period from a Soviet regime to a market economy and democratic political system, was both brave and unique.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Co-management has resulted in more productive pastureland, healthier herds, and increased incomes at the pilot sites. Co-management helps to secure access to resources for poor local communities, and to build new institutions that give them a greater voice. And together, everyone with a stake in the health of a resource experiments with new ways of doing things, including exploring alternative livelihood options. Currently, more than 30 communities or herder groups exist in the project study sites, with about 15–30 herding families in each group. The 630 households comprise 2450 people. Communities’ pastureland covers an area of about 3000 ha on average with an average of 3435 animals per community. An important result of the work is that annual household income has increased by 6–10% on average across the research sites. Between 2001 and 2007, average household income increased as much as 65% at the Khotont study site, 77% at the Deluin site, and 85% at the Lun site. The rate of growth in income was higher in households classified as middle and poor compared with the richest households, suggesting that our efforts have been able to reach and involve those most affected by the difficult situation the country has faced in the early years of transition. The social impact has also led to policy impact.
About You
Environment & Development Association ‘JASIL’
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Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name


Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Organization Name

Environment & Development Association ‘JASIL’

Organization Phone


Organization Address

Room No.19, ‘Policy Center’ Building, B korpus, Baga Toiruu-46, Sukhbaatar District, Ulaanbaatar

Organization Country
How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, 073

Do you have a patent for this idea?


Herders are organized in community groups. They clarify and agree on the boundaries of pasture areas. Several communities enter into contracts with the local government on pasture use, according to the new Land Law provisions. All regulatory measures, including use and protection, are then transferred to the community. Each year, co-management agreements are revised and re-approved in the communities with the support of the co-management teams. Improvements are achieved in grasslands and herd management through shifting, hay and fodder making, and regeneration of grasses. Women’s groups are also involved in income generation through activities such as handicrafts, dairy product, and felting. Herders create community revolving funds for diversifying and marketing of livestock products, which indirectly reduces pressure on pastures.


Herders, united in co-management groups, are now becoming organized into strong sum (county) level associations. Training communities to develop and evaluate their own proposals for projects on improving pastures, natural resources management, and livelihood opportunities will be an important task for the coming year. Another task is to share their experiences with newly formed communities, providing support and encouraging their participation. In the coming two years, the project team will facilitate more activities within the district (such as community days, a community forum, study site meetings, exhibitions, etc.) in cooperation with the co-management teams.
According to Mongolia’s new policy, co-management approaches will be scaled-up and used in all provinces and districts of Mongolia. The team aims to support the scaling up and out during the coming three years. The third task is to improve ecological capacities such as adaptation to climate change.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$100 ‐ 1000

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


If so, how?

In terms of policy and legislative results, one of the biggest achievements has been the establishment of the legal foundation of herder communities as formally responsible for the allocation and management of natural resources at the local level. By changing and linking community rules with the new legal procedures governing nature and environment, a foundation for successful community-based interventions was built. The successful pilot activities are now being extended to new communities. They have already led to changes in national policies and laws governing forests (the Forestry Law), water use (the Water Law), and environmental practices (the Law on Environmental Protection, the National Action Plan to Combat Desertification). Co-management has acquired legal status in the country. The Community Procedure for Community-Based Natural Resource Management has been a major achievement. In addition, some manuals for herders have been produced regarding novel pasture management practices, such as rotation and shifting, as well as for forest management and distaster risk management.

What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?

Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with businesses?

Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your innovation.

Partnerships are central to co-management. They allow addressing ecological, social and economic aspects simultaneously, work at different levels of social organization (from household to state), connect local-level experiences with national level policy-making processes, and transfer experiences and lessons to higher education centers where the new generation of rural development practitioners can learn about co-management. International support has been important to mobilize financial resources, acquire technical support, and engage in advocacy and policy influencing efforts. Building trust is at the heart of partnerships. It takes time and effort to build trust. Engaging in concrete learning activities has been very successful, e.g., workshops, trainings, community days, field experiments (pastures, vegetable production), and exploring new marketing opportunities.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

JASIL, which offers a home to the project team, depends on funding from external resources. After the IDRC funding will come to an end in the spring of 2011, the team aims to develop one or more new proposals to continue the work. Herder co-management groups and their associations are being trained to develop their own proposals for funding. They also continue to operate the revolving community funds. Although the Mongolian government has formulated a decentralization policy, funds channelled to the sum level to put this policy in practice remain very limited. It will remain a challenge therefore to access government funds for local level development centered on co-management. It may be feasible to access national level development funds being allocated to the improvement of the livestock sector, for example. The team will engage with sum governors and sum co-management teams to explore this venue.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

During the middle of the 1990s, pasture degradation was becoming evident almost everywhere in Mongolia. Herders did not know how to deal with it. The government did also not have a response. This led to deep reflection about the serious problem the country was facing. Through contacts with IDRC the opportunity arose to investigate a possible way out (via the introduction of co-management) –this served as the spark for the innovation.

Tell us about the social innovator—the person—behind this idea.

JASIL is made up of diverse people from various backgrounds committed to bring about positive change in Mongolia, in particular, for herders and their communities. JASIL’s director is H. Ykhanbai. He is a son of a herder family from the Altai mountains with intimate knowledge of herders’ livelihoods throughout the country. He has studied the environmental changes (and degradation) in Mongolia for more than 30 years, which led him to the conviction that only innovative, collaborative action can reverse the negative trends.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Friend or family member

If through another source, please provide the information.

Approximately 50 words left (400 characters).

Which (if any) of the following strategies apply to your organization or company (check as many as apply)

Policy advocacy to strengthen property rights or increase security of tenure, Formalizing and documenting property rights (i.e. titling, leasing or certification), Legal education and awareness, Developing/applying technology for surveying, mapping and documenting property rights.

Please explain how your work furthers one or many of the above strategies (if you selected “other”, please explain your strategy)

The JASIL team focuses on strengthening collaborative learning and networking to further gain policy support for co-management and as a way to integrate this approach into Mongolia’s higher education system. We are involved in all of the above strategies to realize these goals.