It was commonly acknowledged that the enormously increased herd size and resulting overgrazing is the major problem lying behind not only declining livestock productivity and persisting rural poverty but also increasing environmental degradation and biodiversity loss in Mongolia.
Controlling animal numbers proved to be a hard task as traditionally herders see their livestock as a walking bank, a measure of social status and security. The government’s policy target to reduce the herd size from 43 m in 2008 to 35 m in 2015 under the Mongol Livestock national program has failed and Mongolia counted the highest ever livestock number in 2019 – 70.9 m.
In 2018, UNDP ENSURE project has set bold targets to protect habitat of unique local biodiversity by reducing the herd size on not less than 300 thousand ha of pastureland in 13 rural districts of 4 central and south-western provinces of Mongolia.
To address the long-standing and difficult problem the project has employed an innovative and holistic model to change the herders’ behavior through a package of awareness building and incentive mechanisms.