Current Projects

“Water for Life – The Darkhid Valley Community Land Restoration Project for Watershed Protection”
The Darkhid local area is located about 40 km NE of Ulaanbaatar city, in Shar Kholoi Bag/Gatchuurt of Bayanzurkh District. It is part of the Tuul watershed that provides critical drinking water supplies to the city of Ulaanbaatar. The urgency of effective management of the watershed and protection of its forest and pasture resources has recently been highlighted by a UNEP report ( The area is seeing increasing environmental impacts through influx of livestock, and population pressure from unregulated growth of the city.

The Darkhid area is also adjacent to one of the premier National Parks of Mongolia and is habitat to wildlife populations, likely including rare species. With its vicinity to the city and park, the area has significant potential to improve livelihoods through marketing livestock products and engaging in eco-tourism.

The households in the Darkhid area are engaged in traditional livestock husbandry and have for years worked towards forming a local initiative to improve their stewardship over the resources that they depend on and that are crucial for maintaining the watershed function. The location of the Darkhid Community lends itself to undertaking demonstration activities that can serve as model for a large audience – other communities, youth, schools all over the country, to draw attention to the need for watershed protection and to demonstrate options to improve livestock and natural resource management in order to maintain and restore soils, grasslands and forests.

New Zealand Nature Institute – Initiative for People Centered Conservation has worked with the Darkhid Community for several years on activities to improve local livelihoods while maintaining the natural resources and protecting the local environment. The project “Water for Life – The Darkhid Valley Community Land Restoration Project for Watershed Protection” was formulated with the community, and in cooperation with the local government of Bayanzurkh District.
The project is being funded by private sponsorship and by a grant of the Toyota Foundation.
The long-term vision of the project is to create a working community model, bringing together traditional Mongolian practice and knowledge with international experiences, that can provide a tool to communities to adapt to climate change while preserving their way of life and livelihood. The project also works towards a social goal – to enhance engagement of communities for the benefit of society, and to emphasize the responsibility of the individual for environmental sustainability. This notion resonates both with traditional Mongolian norms (as set forth as rule by Chinghis Khan) as well as modern paradigms in a time where environmental protection and the maintenance of ecological processes are a necessity.

The aims of the project are to a) maintain and restore the natural resource base in the Darkhid valley area, b) contribute to the protection of the Tuul Watershed, c) develop the Darkhid site as an educational tool both for the practices in ecological restoration and preservation and for community engagement and collaboration within the society towards environmental sustainability. With these goals, the project is more than a natural resource management activity but a contribution to social stability and security.

The project addresses the degradation of the natural resources and environment including the pasturelands, forests, streams, wetlands and riparian areas. The degradation is due to overuse of pasture aggravated by unregulated grazing and the influx of livestock from outside areas, and through inappropriate practices such as grazing on steep slopes, trampling in and around streams, and the imbalance of livestock types in the herds – with a large proportion of small livestock namely goats. These practices are threatening and in some places have begun to accelerate loss of topsoil, or of the ability of soil to function as substrate to provide nutrients, retain water and maintain vegetation cover.

Dairy production has a potential to be improved significantly and target the city market; however, lack of electricity and facilities for processing are a barrier for better income from dairy production.

The project will also rehabilitate land areas that are being effected by waste and that have been altered in the past for road construction. A major challenge is tenure, access to resources and the right for the local community to manage the resources for their livelihood; the community is aspiring to invest in the land and natural resources and needs security to manage the resources for their benefit. At the same time, the community is to take on responsibility as custodians of the Darkhid portion of the watershed.

Project activities will be planned, implemented and evaluated with all partners in community and local government. The main activities include:

  • Community Meetings and Trainings to strengthen Community Organization
  • Develop Management Plan for Community Area with community and local government agencies
  • Develop pasture land management plan Landscaping of gravel pit area and re-planting with trees
  • Re-forestation on selected sites on higher slopes
  • With community and local government, develop waste management plan, and identify responsible parties and waste collection points and schedule
  • Procurement of waste collection truck, and of waste bins (dumpsters), placement on site.
  • Establish monitoring sites (fences to exclude livestock grazing) for educational/research purposes
  • Fence wetland sites, and selected stream sections
  • Training for improved pastureland management
  • Training on watershed protection
  • Training for improved livestock management/veterinary care
  • Veterinary service provision (by VetNet)
  • International Study Tour to learn/share experiences on ecological restoration of riparian areas, and improved pasture/livestock management
  • Wildlife survey (to establish significance of area for biodiversity conservation)
  • Develop “nature and learning trail”
  • Develop “of Community and Learning Center
  • Construction of “Community and Learning Center” using green” building design and appropriate technology for construction
  • Furnish Community and Information Center, and Prepare displays and educational material for Community and Information Center
  • Media Events
  • Begin activities with schools, youth, community organizations from other areas, general public

The project will be implemented by a partnership of organizations – the Darkhid Community, the national NGOs “People Centered Conservation (PCC)”, “Nomadic Nature Conservation (NNC)”, and “VetNet”; training and technical assistance will be provided by relevant resource organizations from among relevant Mongolian research and training institutions and NGOs. Project implementation is in close cooperation with local government officers. Overall implementation responsibility is with IPECON-NZNI.

The innovation of the project is firstly in bringing together science based practices for riparian restoration and management with traditional livestock management practices to develop appropriate models for Mongolia in the context of climate change.

Participatory planning with all stakeholders and partners makes this project more than a technical intervention but positions it to have a broader social impact. While centered around the resource base of one community, it addresses the need for protecting the water sources of the city. It draws attention to the role of local communities in maintaining ecosystem services, and develops a learning model for both technical interventions and for civic engagement for the public good.

The project design relies on a broad partnership of international, national and local community non-government organizations as the drivers of the project, who collaborate with government agencies.
The long-term experience of the organizations and individuals involved, their unique approaches in addressing ecological, livelihood and social issues will come together in the “Water-for-Life Project”.

Mongolia Water Report 2011

SER News

Water Book

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