In May 2017, Development Solutions International (DSI), a US-based NGO focused on economic development in Mongolia, initiated a new one-year Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program in Mongolia. The project, “Sustainable animal herding in Mongolia: From household herding to small multipurpose business,” is supported through Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA)’s Farmer-to-Farmer Special Program Support Project (SPSP). Eight highly skilled volunteers will travel to Uvurkhangai province in central Mongolia to visit with herders, government officials and agriculture students, providing their expertise on livestock product processing, new technologies and business skills.
Livestock herding is a key sector within the Mongolian economy, making up about 12 percent of the national GDP, and providing a livelihood for one-fifth of the country’s population of three million. However, the transition from a socialist to market economy in 1990 resulted in a number of changes for herders. Public services, including veterinary and technological support, retreated from rural areas and many herders have increased their herd sizes to generate additional income at the expense of animal quality. Herders face additional challenges limiting their real income potential, including lack of food safety training, limited access to markets and poor education regarding business and entrepreneurial skills. Climate change, winter natural disasters and widespread desertification due to overgrazing are also added difficulties affecting herding practices today.
DSI’s F2F project aims to address those challenges by improving Mongolian herders’ ability to produce, market and sell quality products, which volunteers will assist with in two ways. First, volunteers will meet with herders to share knowledge regarding animal health management, grazing and feeding practices, entrepreneurship and other productivity-enhancing practices. By identifying strengths and weaknesses of current practices, volunteers will be able to advise on best strategies to increase livestock product sales. Second, volunteers will engage in capacity building activities with local government officials and university agriculture students, providing training on the latest innovative livestock methods and technologies. The goal is that these trained beneficiaries will use the additional knowledge to educate other professionals and advocate for government policies supporting herders. By targeting herders directly as well as government officials and future agricultural specialists, the project encourages entrepreneurship and ensures the long-term sustainability of the livestock sector.
This SPSP grant will be the first Farmer-to-Farmer project in Mongolia during the 2013-2018 F2F program cycle , and it is the first F2F grant for Development Solutions International. DSI will collaborate with local Mongolian NGO Dem-Ololt, the Department of Food and Agriculture of Uvurkhangai province, the School of Economic Studies at the National University of Mongolia, and the Mongolian University of Life Sciences. Affiliates at Virginia Tech and the West Virginia Shepherds Federation will help recruit volunteers, who will be given assignments lasting two to three weeks in Mongolia and have the opportunity to stay with host herder families.