"December and January are the worst." Cash assistance helps Mongolian families survive dzuds

Published: Jan 3, 2024 Reading time: 3 minutes
© Photo: PIN

Many rural Mongolians rely on livestock herding, but they face a growing threat due to extreme climate events called dzuds. Hot, dry summers, harsh, snowy winters, and reduced access to pasture lead to high livestock mortality, endangering rural livelihoods. Climate change is expected to make dzuds even more frequent and severe. Mongolia's vulnerability to these events sets it apart, making it especially susceptible to climate change.

In the beautiful landscapes of Uvs province, Otgonsuren Munkh and his family pursue a life of herding. Otgonsuren, or "Otgoo," lives with his wife, Uranchimeg, and their three children. They reside in Myangan, located in the 3rd bagh of Tarialan soum, 1344 km away from Mongolia's capital, Ulaanbaatar.

Otgonsuren remembers the difficulties of past dzuds. The dzuds in 1999 and 2008 caused significant livestock losses, and the family didn't receive any financial aid during those times. Nevertheless, they rebuilt their herd and persevered. 

The findings of our CashEval research project highlight the susceptibility of pastoralist households to severe winter conditions and explore the policy instruments to aid their adjustment to dzud-related challenges. We developed the Targeting and Transfer Value (TTV) Tool, methodology and tool to identify the most affected people for humanitarian cash assistance to be provided to pastoralist households.

Within the scope of the initiative, 381 households chosen by the Randomised Controlled Trials approach received cash assistance varying from 510,000 to 850,000 MNT to overcome dzuds in 2021. The families mostly used it for food for themselves and their animals.

Otgoo´s family is one of them. They received cash assistance of 510 thousand MNT in March 2022. Roughly 300 thousand MNT were allocated for hay and fodder, and the remaining sum went towards purchasing flour and petrol. This financial aid helped them acquire necessary resources, maintain their livestock, and, most importantly, avoid utilising the Child Money (the Government’s monthly child cash allowance – similar to the Universal Child Grant programme) during the harsh winter.

With almost 27 years of herding experience, Otgonsuren stressed the importance of monetary assistance, particularly in April when the prepared fodder became scarce. He suggested that providing cash assistance during this time greatly benefits herders and supports their livelihoods.

Have a look at Otgoo´s story:

"That cash assistance indeed was an excellent support for us to the herders, when we had no money, it assisted us in purchasing hay, and flour for our household. It played a significant role during the times of seasonal migration. It helped us prevent livestock mortality, as we were able to purchase hay and fodder to nourish the weakened livestock," said Otgonsuren to our team during the assessment interview in March 2023.

The primary objective of this project was to provide cash assistance to herder households, enabling them to mitigate livestock losses and reduce the risk of dzud-related disasters.

Supported by funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education and Research of the Federal Republic of Germany, the research initiative involved collaboration between the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), People in Need (PIN) International Non-Governmental Organisation (INGO), and the National Statistics Office (NSO) of Mongolia. The primary purpose of the project is to generate new knowledge about the effectiveness of new policy tools for humanitarian aid in the form of cash transfers in order to alleviate the risk that pastoralist households encounter as a result of extreme weather conditions, which cause them to lose their livestock, thereby leading to further deterioration of their livelihoods. 

Autor: Tina Puntsag, Bat-Erdene Bayarsaikhan, Lucie Marková

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