Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sustainable Agriculture and Economic Learning (SAEL) Project 2011

...and some background information about SAEL, as described by ADRA-Mongolia, the NGO facilitating the project:

This project proposes an integrated approach to establish food security in one of the poorest and most remote urban capitals in the country, Bayan Ulgii Province. Mongolia has an extreme continental climate, with temperatures ranging across the country from minus 45C in winter to plus 45C in summer. The summer growing period is very short (90 to 120 days for unprotected crops). Traditionally Mongolians have relied on livestock-based agriculture. During the transition from collective socialism to a market economy in the 1990s the agriculture and food industry virtually collapsed. This challenge was exacerbated by three consecutive winter disasters (dzuds) in 1999, 2000 and 2001, when 7.6 million animals (one third of the national herd) died. Mongolia experienced another dzud in the winter of 2009, and over 7.2 million animals died (16% of the national herd) by April 2010. Mongolians experience food insecurity due to seasonal fluctuations in food availability, unemployment and a higher cost of living. There are two difficult periods for food security – between August and October (late summer before harvest) and between March and May (the spring months when both food and employment are scarce). Vegetables are almost impossible to secure at a reasonable quality and price during these times.

Bayan Ulgii province lies in the extreme west of Mongolia, some 1,700 kilometres from Ulaanbaatar.  The province is an ethnic enclave, as the population are predominantly Kazakh.  Kazakh speak their own language and have their own distinct religious beliefs, but otherwise share important characteristics with the Mongolian majority, especially in that they are dependent on nomadic pastoralism as their fundamental livelihood. Under the Soviet period of domination the province was intentionally underdeveloped. Despite efforts by the present government of Mongolia to improve the standard of infrastructure and services in the province, the geographic and cultural isolation of Kazakh Mongolians continues. The combination of linguistic difference and geographic isolation mean that UN and NGO engagement in the province is very limited, despite the fact that Bayan Ulgii is regularly at or near the bottom of the national index of human development indicators.

In the provincial centre, many households (HHs) are by necessity engaged in subsistence living.  Limited employment opportunities in small businesses exist, but overall there are minimal opportunities in Ulgii.  Rate of vitamin A deficiency and anemia among pregnant and lactating mothers are the highest in the nation, at 27 percent.  Similar deficiencies are noted for Vitamin D and iodine. Agricultural activity is among the most limited in the country, with only 6,600 MTS of produce harvested every year across the whole province.

Food insecurity, poor health and nutrition in Ulgii is based on a near constant lack of employment and as a consequence limited circulation of money.  Many residents have no access to their own food and are therefore reliant on purchasing food to meet their basic needs.  As many HHs can only afford the cheapest, lowest quality items on sale, this exposes HHs to food safety risks.  ADRA maintains excellent relations with the local government and is among a very few NGOs which have Kazakh speaking staff in Ulaanbaatar, and as such is uniquely placed to implement projects in the province. 

via GoogleMaps: Ulgii soum, Bayan Ulgii province, Outer Mongolia

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