Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Greens in April, in Mongolia...?


Photo: Raddishes have been harvested since early April in the GERES' Passive solar greenhouse R&D site in Ulaanbaatar.

From GERES' Community of Practice website, by Anne Randall:


The '“Food Security and Innovative Farming Approaches for Mongolia” Project (2010-2013, funded by the European Union) is led by a consortium of two French NGOs: Secours Catholique and GERES, who are working closely to support Mongolian NGO Caritas Mongolia.


The objective is to develop more efficient and diversified ways to grow vegetables at household level, in order to reduce the food insecurity which affects the most vulnerable families (1,000 families in Ulaanbaatar and in Gobi-Altai province).


Activities are intended to develop, implement and diffuse passive solar greenhouses (180 family and community greenhouses and 75 nurseries), improved techniques of soil and water management and bioclimatic cellars. GERES is bringing its technical expertise to the local partner during the first research and development phase on these 3 techniques. 


In Autumn 2010, a Research and Display Center was built in the middle of the peri-urban “yurt areas” [['ger districts' - TGB Editorial]] of Ulaanbaatar. The Research carried out in the center aims at testing:

  1. The thermal performance of different designs of passive solar greenhouses.
  2. Potential optimizations for solar greenhouses (ex: hotbeds for early seedlings, thermal storage in water tanks).
  3. Improved soil and water management practices (ex: rainwater harvesting, windbreaks).


Photo: Ulaanbaatar peri-urban Research & Development site for passive solar greenhouse design.


At the same time, GERES has developed a new low-cost passive solar greenhouse design for peri-urban areas of Ulaanbaatar (see picture). The greenhouse size is relatively small (8,8 m*4,4m) compared to “usual rural solar greenhouses” diffused in Asia. The constraints (in terms of suitable space available) are high: the standard size of the plot is small (700m2), with a large amount of available area often already occupied by other structures.  Each plot is fenced with a 2 meters wood barrier and the orientation of the plot may not be suitable. 


The size has thus been adapted to fit the families’ site constraints while insuring a sufficient vegetable production meeting their needs.


Passive Solar Greenhouses represent a new technology in Mongolia and have aroused a big interest from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Governmental Agencies, since the project's beginning. This shows promise for this resource’s development in the country.


In this early spring 2011, greenhouses began their first full growing season. Thermal and agronomic performances tested since last autumn are revealing first results that meet our expectations. 


Research greenhouses can be used from late February to early December (we have to keep in mind that atmospheric pollution in Ulaanbaatar reduces winter solar radiations).

Photo: April 27, 2011.  Inside the Ulaanbaatar research greenhouse.


Family greenhouses can be used from mid-March for direct hardy vegetables seedling (radish, lettuce, turnip, spinach) and beginning of April for sensitive vegetables/fruits transplantation (tomatoes, cucumber, sweet pepper). At this date, greenhouses generally used in Ulaanbaatar (tunnel-type greenhouse) are frozen and usually start to be used from mid-May. Spring is a critical period regarding food security; thanks to these greenhouses, Ulaanbaatar families will be able to consume fresh and nutritive vegetables starting from April. 


Thermal performance inside Ulaanbaatar greenhouse from Mar 17 - 20, 2011. 


Some thermal data: At mid-March, during cold nights (minimum -20°C), the research greenhouse allows to gain 20°C and the family greenhouse allows to increase the temperature by 15°C. 


Prospects: Thermal results will allow us to compare the different designs performances and suggest relevant optimizations. The main objective for 2011 as regards to agronomic experimentations is to suggest a new schedule for farmers, which will be adapted to this longer cultivation season, in order to make a better use of the opportunity offered by the passive solar greenhouses.


Photo: Anne Randall inspects this season's early crops.


For more information about the “Food Security and Innovative Farming Approaches for Mongolia” Project, contact:




Agronomist/Technical Adviser Mongolia - Country Representative


GERES - Group for the Environment, Renewable Energy and Solidarity

Sukhbaatar District, 6th khoroo,

University street 11/1, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

P.O.Box-1353, Ulaanbaatar-13 Mongolia

Tel: (976)98105052

Mobile: (976)98080928

a.randall@geres.eu - www.geres.eu



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