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Submitted by Zach on
I spent three months researching rural to urban migration in Mongolia a few summers ago, and learned how important and challenging it is for the country to maintain a viable herding sector that not only preserves Mongolian culture but offers a livelihood to many struggling families. Though much of what I learned made me critical of the World Bank's policies in the 90's, the questions you ask now seem telling of a different perspective at the Bank - one less ideologically market driven and more pragmatic. To answer your first question: No. The economic significance of the cashmere industry will continue to support the influx of goats, which cause most of the damage to the grazing land. Unless a new and less environmentally destructive industry emerges, I don't see this problem going away. A government tax or restriction on cashmere production might mitigate the problem, but would likely involve a higher price for cashmere. This may mean we would all need to start paying more for our cashmere scarfs - a risky proposition, but one that should be explored further. To answer your second question: This is a difficult question. With the perplexing issue of providing modern amenities versus respecting traditional culture, I think providing choices and options always seems to be the best option. As part of my research, I spent a week living with a herding family that was considering a move to Ulaan Bataar. (Many herding families are considering or already have moved to UB, which makes up for 60% of the population, with many living in the slum like ger districts.) Research from the Asia Development Bank found that families are moving to the City for two primary reasons: (1) as a survival economic strategy and (2) so that their children can receive an education. In my opinion, the priority of the Mongolian government and the World Bank should be to provide the opportunity for herders to meet these two basic criteria. Herding must be made sustainable and innovative methods must be explored and introduced so that the industry is dzud proof. Furthermore, children in the countryside must have the opportunity to receive a modern education. Mongolia is an incredible place and I applaud the World Bank for shedding light on the difficult challenges that the country faces.