Our Priorities

Support Community-led Conservation

Two herders in Eastern Mongolia's Tosonhulstai Nature Reserve.
Mongolian nomads Two herders in Eastern Mongolia's Tosonhulstai Nature Reserve. © Nick Hall

Conserving critical grassland ecosystems while supporting the well-being of local communities in Mongolia

Herder leadership in grassland conservation is essential for ensuring the long-term protection of ecosystems.

Mongolia, with 80% rolling grasslands and one of the world’s last remaining nomadic cultures, faces grassland degradation due to factors like overloaded carrying capacity, changing herd composition, and reduced pasture size due to development, lack of rights to rangeland, the 1000 livestock incentive, and reduction in livestock exports.

Over the past three decades, herders increased livestock significantly, reaching 70.9 million in 2019, 2.4 times the country’s grasslands. This not only depletes grassland resources but also makes both livestock and livelihoods vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters. During the last 30 years, the goat ratio within herds has doubled due to cashmere demand.

The decline in meat exports over 30 years is attributed to various factors such as weak veterinary service, epidemic livestock disease, lack of an appropriate meat supply chain, inconsistent market prices and limited working capital, contributing to the increase in livestock numbers as animals are kept rather than sold.

Wild animals with livestock in Mongolia
Arkhangai province Wild animals with livestock in Mongolia © Ankhbayar Enkhbold/TNC

Empowering Herder Communities: A Sustainable Path to Grassland Conservation through Community-Based Organization Models

TNC emphasizes the significance of herder communities, relying on livestock herding for their livelihoods, and their extensive traditional knowledge. It recognizes that herder leadership in grassland conservation is essential for ensuring the long-term protection of this ecosystem. It supports herder communities by enhancing economic opportunities, reducing grazing pressure, and improving grassland management.

Utilizing the Community-Based Organization (CBO) model, TNC leverages a 2012 environmental protection law amendment, enabling herders to gain formal recognition of communal pasturelands and resource management rights.

Through an innovative model, communities are acquiring rights to pasturelands, enabling them to restrict development and usage by herders lacking shared grazing agreements. This approach aims to revive customs of respecting shared resource use, develop natural resource management plans emphasizing traditional sustainable grazing practices, and support herder initiatives in forming larger associations for increased influence, improved coordination, conflict reduction, and broader impact across landscapes.

Mongolian herders come together with their families to generate alternative incomes while protecting their lands

TNC aimed to help herders in grassland areas by forming community-based organizations (CBOs) to secure their rights. To strengthen these CBOs, eight associations were created to assist them in decision-making, coordinate management of larger grassland areas, and facilitate shared learning and unified actions. Furthermore, 281 CBOs were created, and 166 of them are actively implementing their natural resources management plans over 7.4 million hectares.

Key results

281 CBOs have been established, involving 5,329 herder households responsible for managing over 7.4 million hectares of land as of December 2023.

  • Soil organic carbon content


    CBOs established.

  • Great importance


    herder households empowered.

  • ddagdsa


    hectares of land managed by herder households.

To provide additional income opportunities, the project supported the creation of two ecotourism camps in Khovd aimag, a small-scale skin processing factory, and a beekeeping initiative in Khentii aimag. Efforts are underway to establish a small-scale dairy processing factory in Dornod aimag.

In specific regions, a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) model was introduced, and baseline survey data was collected. Livestock management training was provided to 136 members of 99 households in 10 CBOs. Leadership and financial training were also delivered to CBO leaders, fund managers, and members of 18 CBOs in three regions.

The VSLA program aims to empower communities economically by providing access to basic financial services, fostering entrepreneurship, and promoting social cohesion. Its main outcomes include financial inclusion, empowerment, entrepreneurship, income generation, and enhanced social cohesion within the community, resulting in a more sustainable grassland ecosystem.