Why Mongolia expects so much from France to secure the future of their traditional nomadic herding

One of the tributaries of the Selenge, bordered by grain fields blooming in the soft spring sun, meanders to Lake Baikal, more than 150 kilometers to the north. The visual scene at the climax of the imaginary postcard is suddenly marred by the destruction of a sort of triumphal arch encrusted with silver stars, straight from the Soviet era.

The area is 3 times larger than France with only 3.3 million people

An outstanding shortcut. The past is never far away in Mongolia. Geography is an insurmountable border. Located between Russia to the north and China to the south, a vast land of 1.5 million square kilometers, that is, three times the size of France, with only 3.3 million inhabitants, this country measures the meaning of the word. more than anyone else is sovereign. and independence.
Proud of their traditions and history, with the ubiquitous sultan Genghis Khan, the Mongols have strived, since the end of Muscovite rule in 1992, to reclaim their fortunes and incidentally also overlook a little the distance between them and their two powerful neighbours, with fairly exemplary democracies.A delegation from Livestock Summit, led by its president, Jacques Chazalet, arrived in Mongolia last week to meet with breeders and government agencies.
In this quest for liberation, Mongolia is certainly relying on its substantial mining resources – the giant Rio Tinto provides the bulk of the national GDP – but also on agriculture. High hopes are therefore placed on the country’s participation as the guest of honor at the next Livestock Summit in Clermont-Ferrand (October 4-7), the first livestock fair in the world. Europe, a delegation arrived at Ulan Bator last week.

Cattle herd 67 million head

In this strategic area, the problem is very complex and the need is commensurate with the vast dimensions of the territory. The first is to preserve traditional nomadism. 800,000 families, an essential part of society, account for 49% of the wealth. Even if agriculture is still officially only 6% of GDP. This number is certainly underestimated insofar as within thirty years the herd has literally exploded to 67 million heads, including 31 sheep and 27 goats, including the wool used. to make very lucrative cashmere.With 67 million farm animals, 31 of which are sheep only, with a population of just 3.3 million, Mongolia holds the world record.

Live animal exports to China and Russia, which favor these so-called organic and healthy meats, follow a similar curve. The most famous area is Altai, in the northwest, on the Russian border, with these salt lakes, where sheep are as famous as ours from the salt meadows.

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The Épinal image of frugal nomads is outdated

The Épinal image of a sparsely inhabited nomad in a semi-autonomous regime, as it was three centuries ago, is outdated. After a few kilometers of trails on the pinnacle of the tinsel gate to the glory of collectivism, the Boldbaakar family camp appeared. The most advanced Toyota is parked in front. The shiny motorbikes were ready to rush across the steppe. Inside the sterile yurts, all modern amenities: satellite TV, refrigerator, comfortable furniture, neatly decorated.Very attached to their traditions, the nomads nevertheless have all the modern conveniences of their years.

On the other hand of this recent and relative prosperity trend, the wide open space for nomads is shrinking to a trickle. Three decades ago, the Boldbaakar family’s summer camp and winter camp were 30 kilometers apart. Today there is only 2.4 km between the two. In the Selenge region alone, the number of animals has increased from 400,000 in 1992 to 1.8 million today.

With a total of 900 animals (cows, ewes, sheep, goats and horses), Boldbaakar finds himself cramped. To solve this equation, the patriarch chose to change his practice by crossing his local dog breed with merino hybrids imported from France.

The fear of overgrazing, synonymous with desertification

The same process is taking place in its cattle with Hereford bulls. The history of producing, in the long run, more meat and milk with fewer animals and thus avoiding overgrazing, synonymous with desertification, the great fear of the authorities.In the Selenge region alone, the number of farm animals has increased in thirty years from 400,000 to 1.8 million, effectively limiting space for breeders and raising concerns about the risk of overgrazing. level.

Generalizing this paradigm shift nationally to preserve the sustainability of nomadism will require sharp technical and financial support, which will be the focus of the Mongolian delegation’s visit to Auvergne this fall. Like the question of animal identification, health monitoring and their traceability, still in its infancy but nevertheless essential to comply with international standards and open up export markets new.

The government’s second priority is to secure supplies of Oulan Bator (1.5 million inhabitants) and Darkhan (300,000), which are home to more than half of the population. A special agricultural zone covering 2% of the territory has been established to implement more intensive farming models. The main needs are cow’s milk and beef, as well as fruits and vegetables.

“Don’t get stuck between two bears”

A plan to import 100,000 dairy and beef cattle to promote the creation of more efficient farms with purebred herds has been approved. The cooperative “Nomadic Agro Farm”, which has imported several hundred Montbéliardes from France, plans to bring in 460 heifers in the fall, with support from the BPI (Public Investment Bank).Mongolia has imported several hundred Montbéliard cows from France and is preparing to bring in 460 heifers in the fall.

An example among others of the promising prospects opening up.

Direct sale of Mongolian sheep, the circuit can’t be shorter

“The potential is there. Above all, I hope that the French state and foreign affairs will meet these very important expectations. Because we really feel in the Mongols the desire to build a solid partnership with France in terms of livestock. All in all, we get the feeling that they don’t want to be stuck alone between two bears. And the Summit can be one of the tools in this strategy around sustainable extensive farming,” summarized Jacques Chazalet, president of Livestock Summit.

In Mongolia, Dominique Diogon

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