for sustainable development


Keep on Moving: How to preserve the ecosystem of the Mongolian steppe

Mongolia is currently undergoing major social and economic changes. This is also affecting the country’s eastern steppe, one of the largest intact grassland ecosystems in the world. Urbanisation is increasing and nomadic pasture management is increasingly restricted to areas close to settlements, while the size of herds is growing steadily. The consequences of this development are water scarcity and soil degradation – processes that are intensified by climate change. In the current ISOE-Policy Brief, the authors of the MORE STEP research project address the question of how, despite ongoing rural-urban migration, shepherds can lead a modern nomadic way of life while at the same time protecting the ecosystem from irreversible damage.

Mongolian steppe

Since the 1990s, the importance of the extractive industry, mining and oil production for the Mongolian economy has been growing. The trend towards urbanisation is pushing the country’s formerly most important economic activity back into the steppe: pastoral agriculture, i.e. land use with mobile livestock farming on naturally grown grasslands. The aim of the German-Mongolian research project MORE STEP is to identify as early as possible at which points these developments can lead to a tipping of the steppe ecosystem and to prevent irreversible processes such as soil degradation or the loss of wildlife’s migration capacity (e.g. gazelles), but also social processes such as a possible loss of nomadic lifestyles. This social-ecological issue is the subject of the interdisciplinary research project MORE STEP.

The mobility of nomads is the key to sustainable steppe development

The mobility of pastoralists and their animals is a decisive key to a sustainable development of the steppe – and thus central to land use management. The aim is to create conditions that maintain or increase the mobility of pastoralists. Time is ticking because a new generation is growing up in the urban environment and is not longer familiar with the traditional nomadic way of life. This not only affects the former close connection between man and nature is lost, but also a loss of biodiversity and of knowledge in dealing with grazing animals, plants and soil.
The policy brief “Keep on moving. How to facilitate nomadic pastoralism in Mongolia in the light of current societal transformation processes” describes what kind of support is necessary on the part of the administration and government so that the nomadic way of life can continue, and how a multi-level governance approach can increase the attractiveness of nomadic pastoralism.

Understanding transformation: Stakeholder Workshop in Ulaanbaatar

In order to better understand the country’s profound societal transformations, the research team is working closely with relevant local actors to investigate the influence on development processes of such diverse groups as nomads, mining or oil companies, governmental and non-governmental organisations. Related issues will be discussed with representatives of these groups at stakeholder workshops under the lead of ISOE. Complementary expert interviews as well as qualitative interviews with representatives of relevant social groups also serve to record the perception and assessment of the prevailing societal transformation processes in Mongolia.

A documentation and analysis of the first stakeholder workshop in September 2017 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is now available. “Mobility at risk: Sustaining the Mongolian Steppe Ecosystem – societal transformation processes” has been published as part of the series ISOE-Materialien Soziale Ökologie (ISOE Materials Social Ecology) and is available for download.


Mehring, Marion et al. (2018): Keep on moving - How to facilitate nomadic pastoralism in Mongolia in the light of current societal transformation processes. ISOE Policy Brief, 7. Frankfurt am Main

Mehring, Marion et al. (2018): Mobility at risk: Sustaining the Mongolian Steppe Ecosystem - societal transformation processes. Stakeholder analysis and identification of drivers and potential solution pathways. ISOE-Materialien Soziale Ökologie, 52. Frankfurt am Main



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