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The basis of rural revival in Mongolia is possession right of pasture land and its privatization of user right. Executive Director of the Mongolian Society for Range Management, doctor (PhD), professor D. Dorligsuren.

Is it reasonable to repeat the provisions of the 2002 law, which states that pastures will be used by contract, in the “Concept of the Bill on Amendments to the Land Law” developed by D. Togtohsuren and others? In the 30 years since the land law was approved and implemented, what negative consequences did the provision of the law on the use of ranglands under contract have brought to the development of pastoral nomadic livestock in Mongolia?

  1. 1. Our so-called “Nomadic civilization” that is friendly to the environment and the world is in conflict with the theory of sustainable development of Mongolia, and it is dangerous to lead to ecological destruction. Due to overgrazing, more than 70% of all grasslands have been degraded to some extent, 76.9% of the total area, or 120 million hectares, has been affected by desertification, and almost half of the total area is severely or very severely desertified. In fact, some of our researchers believe that nomadic livestock sector is the most environmentally friendly farming system in the World. The world will develop in this way. Explaining this as a “forward-looking development model” is it true? In reality, the degradation of pastures can increase desertification and lead to ecological destruction.
  2. Contractual use of pastures is aimed at preserving the self-sufficient household farming system that is economically less productive. As of 2021, 47.5% or 89,504 pastoral households have less than 200 animals, which is one of the main reasons for increasing poverty.
  3. Contractual use of pastures is an main obstacle to the development of intensive animal husbandry. The development of intensive animal husbandry has been talked about for decades, but no legal conditions have been created for its development. The minimum requirement for the development of intensive farming is to have fenced and protected grazing land, with private or long-term ownership rights guaranteed. A lot of investment is required, such as the construction of animal shelters equipped with modern equipment, fences and sheds, fences and protection of fields for growing fodder and cultivated pastures, buying tractors and equipment, digging wells, installing irrigation systems, and hiring specialists and qualified workers. For intensive dairy farming, at least 200 or 400 cows, for specialized intensive meat farming, 200-500 cows, and for local breed livestock feeding farms, 1000 animals should be fed. Such investments will be payback in many years and will pay off only in the long run. In order to make such a large investment, first of all, it is necessary to own pastures and farmlands that meet this requirement for at least 30-50 years. Will intensive agriculture develop in conditions where all this is prohibited?
  4. Contractual use of pastures increases the risk of nomadic pastoralism. If the size of the livestock household is small, the ability to bear risk is weak, can the risk of drought be eliminated with 1-2 porter hay(1-3 ton) and 5-10 sacks(200-400 kg) of prepared hay and bran? Can you solve it by bowing to a monk and a shaman until your forehead is pierced? Every year, not only animals, but also herdsmen’s lives are lost due to zud ( the pastures become covered with snow and ungrazed, strong wind). Will you try your luck like this?
  5. Is the use of pastures under contract compatible with the Constitutional view of establishing a humane civil society? The labor, household conditions, provision of socio-cultural services, and living standards of herders are not enough, and the migration from the livestock sector to urban areas is increasing.From the age of 6 to the age of 18, they are children and young people who have been brought up, playing, learning, living and working together with many of their friends. These young people have two options. Either live in the dead end of the ravine in the heat of plus or minus 30-40 degrees and following several animals one by one, earning five tenge, which is not enough for their life, or doing some “brown money” by being a seller, servant, money changer, or carrying people in a private car. I am faced with the choice of whether to find my own apartment and live comfortably with less risk. There are fewer young people to herd livestock. There are huge age and gender differences. In terms of age, older people predominate, while in terms of gender, men predominate. Most of the girls and boys who participated in the survey answered that they will not become herdsmen. In other words, They are running away from the so-called “Nomadic civilization” that is being praised day and night.
  6. Global development trends and global warming are forcing us to change our development direction and attitude, whether we like it or not. It will also have a negative impact on the implementation of the promise of the President of Mongolia to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 27.2 percent by 2030 and contribute to reducing global warming. In Mongolia’s carbon emissions report, it is estimated that 50% of greenhouse gases come from the energy sector and 49% from the agriculture sector as of 2014. 91% of the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are methane gas released during animal animal digests and animal excrement (44.6 % ), and the researchers determined that methane gas has a warming effect 21 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. In 2022 (71.1 million animals), compared to 2014, the number of animals increased by 37%. It can be considered that the amount of methane gas emitted has also increased. If livestock grows in this way, will the warming of Mongolia, which is 2 times more than the global warming, be able to fulfill the target?

Due to the lack of guarantee of ownership rights to pastures, it is also hindering the use of ecosystem service payments to reduce the number of animals by regulating the grazing capacity, and raising funds by participating in the international voluntary carbon market and issuing certificates. It also hinders raising the living standards of herders. From 2016, the Mongolian Society for Range Management, in cooperation with the University of Leicester, through the PLAN VIVO organization, raised funds of about 1.7 billion MNT from the international voluntary carbon market (covering 77,482 hectares of pasture) and provided them to 120 livestock farmers. If we can cover 10% of our total pastures, we have the opportunity to raise about 40 billion MNT in funds per year. In the future, international organizations and companies interested in implementing projects in this field are submitting their proposals, but the confirmation of pasture property rights, which is the main condition for implementation, is being delayed due to uncertainty. In this area, raising a large amount of funds is losing the opportunity to improve the livelihood of herders.

The main way to solve all these problems and ensure the revival of the countryside is to bring the “nobody’s” state-owned pastures into economic circulation by placing the  possession right of pasture or privatizing the its user right.

The main task of pasture law regulation is to regulate and limit the number of livestock in accordance with the carrying capacity of pastures. In the draft of Law submitted to the Mongolian National Congress, the boundary, location, size and bearing capacity of the 4-season pastures were determined at the level of the Pasture users’ group, confirmed by the Sum people’s representative meeting, and signed the contract by the Governor of Soum. In the contract, the number of animals to be in the pasture  unit will be determined, and measures to adjust the number of animals to the carrying capacity of the pasture will be defined as the responsibility of the pasture user (herdsman). In order to adjust the number of animals in the grazing capacity of the group of pasture users, the herdsman Bat’s number of animals is 100, and the herdsman Dorji’s is 1000? Doesn’t this increase conflicts and arguments between herdsmen and create conditions for quarrels? Who would want to have fewer animals?

In general, the possession right of pastures or privatizing its user rigth does not mean destroying the current system of nomadic livestock husbandry, but rather updating and improving the technology of animal husbandry, attracting investment, developing the livestock sector in a cluster-like manner, and moving it to a settled and semi-settled state. It is aimed at opening the door for further sustainable development and improvement of this sector. By privatizing the livestock, the herdsmen gained wealth, and by taking ownership of the pastures, it means that Mongolian lands will be protected for generations by Mongolian owners. It means that the transition of animal husbandry to market relations will be solved in a comprehensive way.

Any law should be aimed at abolishing outdated lifestyle and customs and accelerating the future development of the country. However, the regulation of the law on pastures is aimed at protecting the Paleolithic hunter-gatherers lifestyle  under the name of  “Nomadic Civilization” developed by some of our populist researchers, scientists, and politicians. Are the provisions of the law developed with such a theory called progress or regress? Will the youth of today’s 21st century accept it and put it into practice? The concept of “nomadic culture” which is advanced, developing and using values is another matter. Of course, it is not possible to change nomadic life in a moment. However, legal conditions must be created that will not be an obstacle to change and development in the future.

By owning the pasture (real estate), the herdsmen, their children, and the young generation will be able to live and work stably in the locality. In the condition of long-term possession of the pasture, the children will develop a feeling of refuge in their locality and pasture. This is the mentality of my property, the mentality of an owner who wants to invest in building a house, digging a well, building a pond, growing fodder, protecting his hayfield, and fencing in order to live comfortably in the local area.

Also, putting possession rights or privatized pasture user rights into economic circulation by leasing or inheriting them will provide an opportunity to increase the income of herders, especially herders with few animals. It is the main solution to rural revival.

Global development trends are also changing. In general, nomadic pastoralism has been suppressed, and sedentary and semi-sedentary pastoralism has become dominant. In Inner Mongolia, which has been engaged in nomadic livestock farming with the same natural and climatic conditions as ours, there is ready experience in solving the above problems by privatizing the user right of grazing land for herders. As herders of Inner Mongolia moved to a semi-settled state, intensified their farming, engaged in high-productivity, low-risk farming, the income level of herders increased dramatically, and a huge change in social and cultural life took place. 20 years ago, the lives of herders, who were the same as our herders, have changed incomparably.

Doesn’t our practice show that ownership of agricultural (crop) land in Mongolia is a source of increased investment in agricultural production and rapid development?

In the context of pastoral nomadic animal husbandry, the question of how much pasture should be given to whom and how to secure the right to own the pasture naturally arises. In the case of a settled business, the land can be divided and owned according to the desire and interest. But in the conditions of nomadic farming, what are the ways to solve it?

In the conditions of Mongolia, where pastoral nomadic animal husbandry is engaged in, the method of acquiring pasture land is also unique. In our opinion, the right to own the pasture land can be exercised in one of two ways: by the size of the pasture area or by the number of animals, depending on whether the herdsman family uses the pasture land alone or jointly, the location of the winter and spring shelters, the distance from the market, and the natural and climatic conditions.

  1. Ownership (possession right ) of pasture according to the amount of pasture area: After determining the border of the pasture unit, determine the capacity of the pasture of each unit and determine how many animals can graze. At the meeting of the group of pasture users who live and herd their animals within the given unit field, winter and spring pastures, their size and boundaries, which can be owned by each herdsman family, can be determined. It is believed that determining the amount of winter and spring pastures decided to be owned is more fair considering the number of animals and the number of families in the herdsmen’s households included in the unit field.
  2. Ownership by number of animals among groups and communities. The winter camps located very close to the same pasture area between the adjacent mountains (10-20 winter camps at the same area, in some provinces) are forced to be shared among the families. In this case, the area of winter pasture should be divided into one unit field.When taking ownership, a certificate of ownership can be issued based on the number of animals transferred per sheep units, based on the carrying capacity of pasture. The sum of the number of animals written in the right certificate of herders must not exceed the carrying capacity of this unit of pasture. In other words, it means that the ownership certificate will be issued based on the number of animals, not the amount of grazing area. The ownership certificate issued by pasture area and issued by the number of livestock has the same meaning as the right to own (possession ) and use a certain amount of pasture. In the case of nomadic livestock farming in Mongolia, any of the above two forms can be used to own the pasture. Pastoral families can issue certificates of rights for pastures that can be used individually, but the number of animals must be determined according to the carrying capacity of a unit area of winter, spring, and summer pastures that are necessary for joint use. Ownership certificates may be issued to households that graze their livestock in that unit, taking into account the number of livestock and the number of families in the household. On the one hand, it is official means of regulating the amount of livestock in that pasture area, and on the other hand, it is officially confirmed that the owner of the pasture. The right certificate set by number will be provided with rights such as inheritance, mortgage, and lease to others, similar to the right certificate issued by the size of the area. By guaranteeing ownership rights in this way, the herdsmen will have an economic interest in turning their pastures into an economic cycle and using them more efficiently and properly.

In this situation, officials such as experts and land managers of the Governor’s Office of Soum should register and monitor the number of animals that should be grazed in that unit, and take fines and punishment measures in the event that animals exceed the number specified in the right certificate. On the other hand, pastoralist households that graze their animals in that unit field will monitor and make demands on each other. If the number of animals in one of the herding households in that unit is less than the number of animals specified in the certificate, the livestock can be leased to a household with more than the number specified in the certificate. In other words, you can rent the right for one sheep to graze for one day for 100 MNT or a certain fee. However, the herdsmen operating in that unit should be notified of the number of animals specified in the certificate issued to the households in that unit, and they should be given the opportunity to monitor each other.

It was not possible to solve the problem of this important and sensitive sector of Mongolia’s economy by adding a few sentences and amendments to the Land Law with enthusiasm, without basing it on research and experiments that have been confirmed in the unique ecological conditions of Mongolia. However, 94.4 of the 2023 draft General Land Law (updated version) submitted to the National Assembly of Mongolia. It is enough to have the provision that the pastures specified in Articles 94.2.1 (seasonal grazing (winter, spring, summer, autumn)) and 94.2.3 (pastures for intensive animal husbandry) of this law will be granted with usufruct rights and the pastures specified in Article 94.2.2 (reserve pasture) will be used by contract. But on this basis, an independent special law on pastures should be developed and resolved.

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