Western Mongolia Curd and Cheese-making Project
Bringing theory into practice
Those curd and cheese making communities are our existing SLE communities in Western Mongolia, in Uvs and Khovd. During COVID, our SLE product purchasing and shipping to outside is restricted and some communities have almost stopped making handicraft products. Therefore, we need to do something else to support local communities which we have been engaged in over two decades. We need to think and discuss what kind of project could be which is (main criterias are) affordable, raw materials are available and sustainable by the communities and it should be basic.
SLCF staff together discussed that this dairy product making process is not much valued and appreciated by the general public lately. We may need to support this field to enhance our activities. The main idea was pretty much aligned with my PhD research as well that for being resilient for changing climate local herders need to seek livestock value added products such as dairy products and fully utilizing livestock other products. This was a real experience for me that brought theory into practice.
Main difference between our existing project SLE and the cheese project is that communities are 100% responsible with selling and marketing. We will be supporting their activities such as providing labels and packages, promoting them for market and events.
The Curd and Cheese-making Project is situated in Western Mongolia, where our community-based conservation activities have been implemented for over 20 years. In the future, we would like to implement this across other snow leopard habitats.
Currently, we work with seven communities in with Khovd and Uvs province, and would like to expand to other communities such as Gobi Altai, and others.
Our work includes:
Help by experts and our long discussions communities identified their own brands (some communities are very good to making ghees, some good to do curds) We provide 4 different types of packaging and labels to the communities We deliver some necessary equipment such as a freezer, measuring items, and shapes.
We support those communities to expose into the market (local and national level) paid for fall exhibition shelf renting, coming to UB to sell their products during community expo as well as connecting with local community fairs. Improved production facilities.
“Making dairy products is not a new thing for us, but having trained teachers to make standardised, hygienically-clean products for sales is another new thing for us to learn”.
Tsendsuren, Ahuuna community leader
Connecting the dots
This cheese project framework can come under spatially explicit conservation which is sustainable use of ecosystem resources together with species and habitat conservation with name under “community responsible area” which means communities to manage their pastoral land and an area of land dedicated to the protection, maintenance and sustainable use of natural resources, and managed through local communities.
Dairy product making members are agreed to place a certain amount of income (10%) from dairy products they have sold into the community funds. Community funds will be increased so that communities are able to do any conservation activities in their community responsible area based on the shared decision.In total, participating communities are protecting 119,487 ha of snow leopard territory through their livelihood activities.
Help to change local people’s perception-Getting support from conservation organisations will often allow a soften and more positive oriented towards wildlife and nature conservation.
Local herder’s alternative income is very limited as their main income sources are livestock. Recently, in the last 20 decades there has been frequent natural disaster and droughts which hampers local herder’s livelihood badly. Therefore, eco-friendly sustainable income sources are crucial for local herders. Supporting herder dairy product projects is one way of elevating their income sources and diversifying incomes.
Through this project, community members learn how to make hygienic and marketable dairy products they can produce and sell to fully utilize livestock products without much waste. Also they are improving their financial literacy to bring into the market with value added products.
We are hopeful that this project can contribute to creating additional alternative livelihood options and promoting social inclusion, as well as landscape and biodiversity conservation.