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.
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.
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.