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February 10, 2021
Milking yaks. Part of the typical Mongolian herding calendar

Ar Arvidjin Delgerekh Cooperative Mongolia

We work in long-term local community partnerships with two families in Arkhangai Aimag in Mongolia who are members of the Ar Arvidjin Delgerekh Cooperative. The 220 members of the Ar Arvidjin Delgerekh cooperative in Mongolia are yak herders.

The Ar Arvijin Delgerekh Cooperative was created in 2010 with the main objective to support the life of yak herders in Arkhangai Aimag. The cooperative implements the following activities that help to sustain and improve the livelihoods of the member herders as it allows them to diversify and increase their income:

  1. Developing the value chain for the soft down fibres from 2 and 3 year old yaks. This includes the purchasing of raw fibres directly from the herders (the herders being paid the full value of their harvest for a higher price than the local market). The raw fibre is sorted and cleaned and exported.
  2. The spinning of the down into yarn. This is predominantly done by the female herders and women that are unemployed. The yarn is then sold nationally and internationally (sold under the Baby Yak label)  – creating an income for the women and generating employment for them.
  3. Providing support to the herding families through fair and responsible tourism and therefore helping to generate a supplementary income to the herder members.

The main reason for the development of the Ar Arvidjin Delgerekh Cooperative in Mongolia is that after decades of Soviet control, in the 1990s, Mongolia adopted its own democratic constitution and freed its economy from state control. But as state-owned cooperatives disbanded, widespread unemployment pushed people into subsistence herding with the number of livestock skyrocketing into unsustainable numbers.

In many – arguably most – areas, these unsustainable numbers, especially of goats, are often blamed for their contribution to Mongolia’s growing desertification. In addition, the climate crisis has hit Mongolia harder than many other countries: Temperatures have risen at twice the rate of the global average, surpassing 2 degrees Celsius since 1940, according to the Ministry of Environment, and rainfall is less consistent.

‘Across Mongolia, nomadic herders today lead a very different life than just a generation ago … They had a decent life in the pastureland even though they had no money. Now, herders have more worries. Money is always tight. The climate is getting drier. The pasture is degraded.’

Yes Magazine – https://www.yesmagazine.org/issue/death/2019/08/16/mongolia-herding-cooperatives-rural-communities-survival/

Working together with the Ar Arvidjin Delgerekh Cooperative helps the herders to better protect their local ecosystem against overgrazing, improve animal health and welfare, and maintain a lifestyle on the land.

We have stayed with the Dondov, Mandakbayar, Batbileg, Tulga and Galbadrakh families – all members of the cooperative. Here’s an introduction to Galbadrakh and Dondov.

Galbadrakh and Ragchaa

The Galbadrakh herding family - members of the Ar Arvidjin Delgerekh Cooperative Mongolia

Galbadrakh and Ragchaa have 4 types of livestock (out of Mongolia’s five snouts they have all except camels). They’re young, focused and yet the traditions of Mongolia run deep and their kindness and generosity leave an impact in the heart of their visitors. Ragchaa is particularly adept at spinning yarn.

Lhagvadondov

Dondov - a Mongolian herder and member of the Ar Arvidjin Delgerekh Cooperative Mongolia

As well as owning yaks, Dondov is also a small market gardener and a local historian (he has constructed a small ger museum to demonstrate life in the 16th Century as part of his wish to share the culture and history of nomadic livestock with others). His summer pasture is located next to the Suman Gol. Don’t try to find this location in a guidebook – you won’t. But, although basic, the location of Dondov’s small camp comes as a good surprise – as part of the Tariat volcanic field. There are petroglyphs to explore as well as the lava terraces.  Only 1% of Mongolia’s landmass is dedicated to crops and Dondov likes to share the challenges of growing vegetables in the harsh terrain of Mongolia. He also works within the local community to improve the condition of life in the countryside.

For more on who we work with in our long term local community partnerships – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/who-we-are/who-we-work-with/

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I’m Jess Brooks. I am the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia - a registered Mongolian business and social travel enterprise that focuses on providing travellers with a real 21st Century insight into Mongolia. I have been based in Mongolia since 2006 and together with my beloved Mongolian team, we focus on tourism that makes a positive difference. I'm also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society - awarded for my work in Mongolia and a published guidebook author - having worked together with World Adventure Guides to produce a digital interactive guide to Mongolia. http://www.jessbrooks.co.uk/
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