Far from the capital Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, Khatgal Khuvsgul is located 900 kilometers north of the capital city. Khatgal has a population of approximately 3,000 people but have anywhere from 40,000-60,000 tourists who visit the famed great lake every summer. This year in February, I had chance to travel to Khatgal for meeting a group of herders who are interested in cooperating together and working with the EMIRGE cooperative mentorship and capacity building program. I am so excited about working with new herders in new rural area. It was very interesting to find out why those herders in Taiga were willing to cooperate. It allowed us, as EMIRGE, to find out what is the real motivation of herders. In the past, I heard that some herders in Taiga (Hatgal) stopped herding yaks, because they began to run boat and guide tourists. Such kind of businesses are growing as a mushroom after the rain. It is affecting local market and local families. Due to it, fresh dairy products such as fresh yak milk, yogurt production is reduced. When I met these people, I felt they are hungry for information. Demand for information was high, particularly demand for information on starting up and running a joint cooperative business. I met the herders who want to work together and produce for the market that demands dairy products. I was impressed how they would come to classes on time, although some of them are living far away, around 60 km. Initially, shy people at the beginning of each session would get active and enthusiastically participate in discussions and team work.
A new area for the EMIRGE Mongolia team, these herders live in Taiga, and local residents herd yak and also run dairy businesses out of their homes. After working with cooperatives in the Ger region of Mongolia, I am excited to see how these herders in Khatgal are different from the farmers in the rest of the program. I’m interested in understanding about how they learn, adopt new technology, understand local knowledge our life in their unique part of Mongolia and finally, learning about their local approach to business and cooperation with each other. I love this part of my job.
After our first meeting, I was so impressed with how willing the yak and cattle herders were to cooperate with each other. Secondly, I was interested to see that they were immediately interested in understanding how they could grow and expand their business. The locals knew the value of the summer tourist months and were interested in understanding how they could use their own resources to tap into the lucrative tourist value chains of the summer months. With that in mind, we put our heads together to see how the cooperative model could work for them. We'll see where it goes--more to come in the future!