Using holistic management steps towards improving soil and vegetation quality and family resiliency in Mongolia
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Mongolian herders are still practicing traditional nomadic pastoralism as their main source of life. In the last 100 years Mongolians have been experiencing dramatic political and economic change. The democratic revolution in 1990 let the herders own herds, but not the pasture. Livestock numbers increased from 25 to 47 million within last 20 years, all grazing on common land. Due to climatic and grazing practice changes and socio-economic issues, more than 70% of Mongolian pasture has been classified as degraded (UNDP, 2012). Since land privatization is not suitable for the traditional herding system, Mongolians are searching for solutions for pasture degradation by attempting to define the optimum-stocking rate for sustainable pasture use. The objectives of this study are to assess the Holistic Management (HM) application at family level decision-making and compare soil and vegetation quality at high and low stocking rate pastures. Application of HM allows us to integrate both traditional and scientific knowledge of pasture to help improve the pasture management decision-making by effectively addressing the pasture degradation within its whole socio-economic and ecological scenario. This project included learning about one family's decision-making process to document it as a pre-HM application, conducting HM workshops with the family, documenting their new decision-making processes, and with the study team and participant family to build the Resource Base Profile (RBP). After 6 months we compared the major changes and implementations of HM application, revised the RBP, and compared the two RBPs to assess changes. We sampled soil and vegetation at the herder's pastures of high and low stocking rate at the peak of growing season (July). We then compared those characteristics with the soil and vegetation quality that they prefer at their pastures. The two pastures differed significantly for both soil and vegetation parameters depending on the slope and aspect of the sampling point. In conclusion, for the study families, higher stocking rate has negative effects on pasture quality and it is contributing to pasture degradation in Mongolia. Herders using HM decision-making process and learning to assess soil and vegetation quality on their pastures are changing their pasture management decisions more sustainably.