UPDATE: In 2020, when they were close to celebrating their 20th anniversary, the Trustees of CAMDA made the difficult decision to close CAMDA. Small, specialist charities are at a greater disadvantage when depending on just a few active members to keep the wheels turning and CAMDA ran out of Trustees. However, in the words of their Secretary Bill Munns:
‘We have had a good long run, and can wind down with dignity and pride, knowing we’ve left a worthwhile legacy to those our aid has reached over the years. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the complex array of circumstances that herders contend with, but we leave the scene with sincere hope and belief that their future is secure, albeit with its own ‘new-normal’ way of maintaining their livelihoods more sustainably. In an ever-changing world of increasing uncertainty, that concept has a lot going for it.’
Let’s start with a question. Say you’re a herder in Mongolia, what do you think is one of the main requirements for your livestock apart from grazing pasture? Yep, you’re right. The answer is water.
There are around 165,000 herder households spread throughout the 1.56 million square miles that form the immensity that is Mongolia.
Although personal usage by herders is minimal water is essential for their livestock … all 66 million (approximately) of them.
Those of you that have been to Mongolia will be aware that streams and rivers are only prevalent in certain areas of the country such as the Khangai Mountains that stretch across the central heartland. Elsewhere, access to water is severely limited due to geography. Climate change is now always making an impact with the average temperature in Mongolia having increased by 2.1C since 1940 (UN Environment Programme – more than double the rise of average global temperatures.
‘Climate change has been monitored over several decades due to the country’s vast grasslands and equally vast livestock herds. Satellite monitoring and field research by rangeland experts and academics from around the world all find that it is changing there at a faster pace than in most other countries, with warnings of yet greater severity and unpredictability in future.’ Bill Munns, CAMDA
That’s why wells (‘either deep engineered or shallow bore and drawn from aquifers’ – Bill Munns) are so essential.
CAMDA is a UK based NGO dedicated to supporting and bringing resources to Mongolia’s herders. It was formed in 2000 following a countrywide severe weather event in Mongolia known as a dzud – a weather event unique to Mongolia. CAMDA provides support not just by providing financial aid, but real practical help, the sort that makes a long term difference to Mongolia’s semi-nomadic herding communities – helping to sustain their vulnerable way of life. Part of their essential work includes the restoration and replacement of fresh-water wells.
Wells are an indispensable source of water to herders and livestock in Mongolia. To those whose lives revolve around and depend upon their livestock they are absolutely invaluable.
CAMDA’s well project is an ongoing project – aiming to provide about 30 wells each year shared among different provinces in Mongolia. They are created using local labour and materials and when the well is complete, handed over to the local authority with a designated person for maintenance.
Some of the provinces are in Gobi fringe regions, and most wells there are refurbished. Khovsgol Province is in the north, not arid in the main but due to hilly terrain, it suffers rain run-off and localised water shortage. Where herds are forced to travel further to graze or find water, their trampling degrades pasture. A solution to ease this situation was seen by adding new wells, especially in areas where climate change has reduced other natural water sources.
In 2018, CAMDA was able to provide 25 wells in Khovsgol Province (northern Mongolia) and 15 in Dundgobi Province (middle Gobi). Additionally, a pilot programme to extend use of pit wells to other provinces was trialled – with 12 being installed, or renovated if appropriate, in Sukhbataar, Khentii and Arkhangai provinces. The Well Refurbishment Project illustrated a major part of CAMDA’s philosophy – that funds were not spent on ‘handouts rather on a means to bring resources to low-income herders.’
You can also look at our Responsible Tourism Mongolia webpage to see our other areas of support in Mongolia.
Jess @ Eternal Landscapes Mongolia.