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Submitted by Dennis Sheehy on
I hesitate to comment, knowing that I may sound overly critical and caustic, but will do so anyway. First, I have been working continuously in Mongolia as a consultant since January 1991. That does not make me an expert on the subject in any way, but it has allowed me to observe first hand the development of patterns and trends relative to the agricultural sector, including pastoral livestock production, pasture use, ecology and management, international and national development projects in the livestock and crop subsectors, development and market economy impacts on large herbivore wildlife, etc. Secondly, drought and dzud in Mongolia commonly occur about every 10 years in Mongolia. Given this factor, and given that the last drought/dzud occurred in 2000/02, given that everyone in Mongolia including the government, donars, and herders knew that pastures were deteriorating, given that animal stocking rates had reached historical highs (total numbers in 2009 were 10 million head higher than the beginning of the 2000/02 drought/dzud, given that the government has not been able to pass legislation relating to the new pasture law that was first presented during the 2000 land conference that would enable overstocking to be addressed, given the replacement of other kind of livestock that died during the 2000/02 drought/dzud with Cashmere goats primarily because of the cash income received directly by the herder and the fecundity of goats to quickly build numbers,and given the inability or unwillingness of herders to provide or purchase livestock feed as a normal production input during every winter, the reaction by the government and the donar institutions is surprising but not unexpected. At this point in time, the government, especially NEMA, and national and international institutions should do all they can to assist herders and rural people to mitigate loss of human lives and livestock mortalities. But after the dzud, all involved should take the necessary steps to put in place the components of a sustainable pastoral livestock production system. Although not the only source of ideas to develop such a system, the "Livestock Sector Strategy" discussion paper prepared by the World Bank would be a good starting point. Lastly, the aftermath of the current dzud presents an opportunity that shouldn't be squandered. Unless meaningful changes are implemented now, there is a high probability that pastoral livestock production will be lost, and with it a primary component of the Mongolian national identity will be lost.