Sep 02, 2011

Southern Mongolia: Nomadic Peoples’ Lifestyle Threatened by Climate

The traditional nomadic lifestyle has become increasingly difficult to maintain, as a drier climate in the region has caused policymakers to limit family grasslands. Despite an annual subsidy, many have had no choice but to move to cities in order to find work and support their families.

Below is an article by Channel News Asia:

Like many nomads in Inner Mongolia, Bu He and his family no longer live in mobile yurts. They have resettled into brick and mortar homes.

Bu He, a herder, said: "The conditions in a brick house are definitely much better, there is electricity, television and water. It's more convenient than living in a Mongolian yurt. But I still like the feeling of living in the Mongolian yurt."

The dry weather in recent years has greatly reduced the amount of grassland. To protect the grass and to prevent overgrazing, the local government has implemented policies to restrict the amount of land allocated to each family. As a result, many of the nomads have had to cut the number of livestock they rear.

Bu He's family had to reduce their sheep from 1,000 to a mere hundred. To compensate for the loss of pasture land, herdsmen get an annual subsidy, which may or may not be enough, depending on each family's situation. Some look for work in the city to maintain a living but not all are accustomed to the new lifestyle.

Bu He said: "Herders miss that old feeling, when we were carefree on the grasslands, rearing sheep and horses. Now with the restriction on grazing land, we can't raise sheep anymore and even have to go to work in the cities.

"It's fine for those my age or younger. But for the older folks, they've lived their entire life in the grasslands and cannot get used to living in brick and mortar buildings in the city. Since urban life doesn't suit them, they'd rather stay in the grasslands."

With modernisation, some are trading in their horses for faster motorbikes and cars but the bond between nomads and their animals remains - herdsmen willingly devote time to taking care of them.

Wu Da Mu, a herder, said: "I'm not tired at all. I'm extremely happy because we enjoy being with them. Horses don't provide us much income but Mongolians just love being with horses."