Mongolia's Nomads Face Difficult Transition

Herder Badamsuren tends to his camel in the Gobi Desert. i i

hide captionHerder Badamsuren tends to his camel in the Gobi Desert.

Herder Badamsuren tends to his camel in the Gobi Desert.

Badamsuren tends to his camels in the Gobi Desert.

Nomadic herders have lived on the Mongolian steppe for centuries. Livestock production is the backbone of Mongolia's economy. But harsh climate conditions and the country's recent transition from communist control to a market economy have made it difficult for some herders to maintain their traditional way of life.

Camel Song

Herder Batsetseg sings this song to her camels when she and her husband pack up their home and move to another location in the Gobi Desert. She's also been singing it for tourists to earn extra money.

About the Reporter

Anna Panoka was recently in Mongolia on a fellowship with the International Reporting Project at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

The herders are being encouraged to form cooperatives to market products together, save on transportation costs, and get a better price for their goods. But the cooperatives face their own obstacles, including the large distances between herding families on the open steppe, and the difficulty of developing trust among the herders.

Badamsuren and Batstesteg with a newborn camel in the Gobi desert.

hide captionBadamsuren and Batstesteg with a newborn camel in the Gobi desert.

Photos by Anna Panoka
A nomadic herder waits for a ride to a nearby village.

hide captionA nomadic herder waits for a ride to a nearby village in the dry steppe of central Mongolia.

Nomadic herder Altanchimeg now creates wool and leather souvenirs to sell to tourists.

hide captionNomadic herder Altanchimeg now creates wool and leather souvenirs to sell to tourists in the Gobi desert.

Camels gather around a well in the Gobi.

hide captionCamels gather around a well in the Gobi.

Herders' homes dot the hills surrounding Ulaanbaatar.

hide captionNomadic herders who lost their animals in recent disastrous winters are moving to Mongolia's capital, Ulaanbaatar, in search of work. Their homes dot the hills surrounding the city.

A boy runs among a flock of newborn lambs and kids in the south Gobi desert.

hide captionA boy runs among a flock of newborn lambs and kids in the south Gobi.

The round yurt-like home of a nomadic herder.

hide captionMongolia's nomadic herders are adjusting to democracy and a market economy as well as an influx of new technology.

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