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Mongolia's Nomads Face Difficult Transition

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

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.

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A nomadic herder waits for a ride to a nearby village in the dry steppe of central Mongolia.
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A 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 in the Gobi desert.
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Nomadic herder Altanchimeg now creates wool and leather souvenirs to sell to tourists in the Gobi desert.
Camels gather around a well in the Gobi.
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Camels gather around a well in the Gobi.
Nomadic 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.
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Nomadic 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.
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A boy runs among a flock of newborn lambs and kids in the south Gobi.
Mongolia's nomadic herders are adjusting to democracy and a market economy as well as an influx of new technology.
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Mongolia's nomadic herders are adjusting to democracy and a market economy as well as an influx of new technology.

Anna Panoka