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Sh.Gungaadorj: Nomadic civilization is Mongolia’s value

Trans. by B.DULGUUN

The 15th Prime Minister of Mongolia, PhD of agricultural sciences and honored agronomist Sh.Gungaadorj gave a lecture at the invitation of Khugjil Club of the Mongolian Democratic Union last Friday. At the lecture, he shared his history about setting foot into the agricultural sector and focus points for developing the nomadic livestock sector.

“Local and agricultural policies are necessary in Mongolia. Developing the mining sector is obviously necessary but how we do it is important. Natural resources do exhaust. Agriculture on the other hand is an everlasting resource. No matter how many years pass, it’ll still be available. Therefore, we need to develop a government policy for developing this sector,” highlighted Sh.Gungaadorj.

Below is an interview with Sh.Gungaadorj about broad range of topics related to the agriculture sector.

What is Mongolia’s key development policy? How would you define Mongolia’s development rate?

A definition of a developed nation is that it has highly-educated people that don’t need to fear or be depressed about something. The key to development is people. As for our nation, our people are all scattered around. We haven’t reached high levels of development. The main development policy for Mongolia is the agriculture sector. This sector is the most fundamental sector that’ll guide us to development.

Lately, Mongolians are moving to cities. Isn’t this conflicting to what you’ve just mentioned?

Unless rural areas are developed, Mongolia will become a nation centered on cities. Mongolians will move to Ulaanbaatar, Darkhan and Erdenet cities as well as provincial centers. Agriculture sector has been passed down to Mongolians for centuries. It’s still being passed on.

During the world economic crisis in 2010, Mongolians were able to overcome it by eating meat while other countries starved. In fact, Mongolians have never starved. I’d say those who are starving are negligent and pathetic because right now, Mongolia has resourceful vast lands. Those people can go to any river and fish, or even grow crops and vegetables anywhere they see fit. No one will restrict them from doing so. We have so many available resources while other countries don’t. Mongolia is the only country in the world that’s upholding the nomadic way of life and preserving its original form. This is Mongolia’s significance and value. Mongolia shouldn’t lose its pastoral traditions and culture.

Why?

The sector the government should always concentrate on is agriculture. Everything of animal origin can be used. Recently, leaders of our neighboring two countries visited Mongolia and discussed about importing Mongolia’s meat. We’re discussing about the possibility of selling agricultural goods. That’s why pastoral cattle breeding should be taken at government and parliamentary level. Most importantly, livestock should be healthy. The Ministries of Agriculture of Mongolia, China and Russia seem to be discussing and exchanging ideas about this. A major work for preventing livestock disease outbreak should be carried out, instead of taking action when diseases have already spread.

What kind of government policy should be executed in the agriculture sector?

Mongolia shouldn’t be getting hyped up over having 50 to 60 million livestock. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin ordered Mongolians to raise livestock to 200 million in 1940. This wasn’t a policy. Generally, livestock should be kept within a specific limit. After that, productivity of livestock should be increased so that it can be processed and manufactured into products. Meat quality should also be improved to make it more expensive as Mongolian meat is something that’s very valuable.

For instance, during my time as the Ambassador to Kazakhstan, representatives of Kuwait Sheikhs (Kuwait’s royal family) came to visit holding a magazine with photos of Mongolian sheep. They said they wanted to purchase 1,000 fat-tailed sheep, exactly the same as the photos, for Sheikh’s birthday. When I told them that livestock are slimmer now that it’s winter, they replied that they didn’t mind. They used to buy sheep from New Zealand and Australia but at the time, they wanted to switch to Mongolian sheep because their Sheikh took a liking to its unique taste after eating it once.

Mongolian meat has a unique taste because our livestock choose its own pasture from Mongolia’s vast land. Taste of livestock pasturing in Gobi (desert) and Khangai region (mountainous area) are different.

People say Gobi’s meat taste better. Is it true?

Indeed. Meat from Gobi livestock is very juicy despite the scarcity of grass. Even famous Mongolian writer B.Rinchen praised Gobi’s meat. This is the true value of pastoral livestock.

Lately, people are saying pastures will be privatized to herders. Can you comment on this?

This is something that should never happen. Mongolians have been managing it for a long time. Privatizing land is impossible.

How do you see extensive animal husbandry?

This doesn’t mean all livestock should be for pasture breeding. Extensive animal husbandry is crucial. Whether it’s for meat or milk production, extensive animal husbandry should be developed. Pastoral cattle breeding should also be preserved. Marketable livestock has a drawback, which is to raise livestock that are more beneficial.

What do you mean by that?

Lately, the number of goats has increased because cashmere price is increasing. But suddenly, people started butchering goats because its meat price started to rise.

I can’t remember when but China informed that goat meat price rose and tons of goats were killed and shipped to China. Mongolia shouldn’t become some foreign country’s toy like this.

Are you implying that China has begun meddling into the agriculture sector? For a long period of time, hasn’t Mongolia been keeping livestock numbers consistent?

Mongolians have been following the policy to keep 20 to 30 percent of small cattle as goats. When I was young, approximately 20 goats were among 100 small cattle. Besides cashmere, goats aren’t valuable since they can’t endure cold weather and eat plants down to its roots. Most importantly, flock structure should be improved with special policies as goats are necessary. The number of livestock is abundant but (product) quality is problematic. That’s why I keep underlining policies.

During winter and spring, many herders have gotten into accidents after following their livestock. As if livestock is more important than people. Pastoral cattle herding sector should be improved. During these seasons, herders can raise livestock within fences and pasture them in the summer. Times have changed now.

I’ll share a story. Severe blizzard occured in 1986. When I was traveling in the countryside, a family said they hadn’t grazed their cattle for a week. We were delivering forage so we unloaded one of our trucks. Approximately 200 bales of hay were loaded per truck. We let out the cattle and it took them one hour and fifty minutes to finish a truck full of forage. At the time, we realized the importance of forage. During that year’s severe weather conditions, over a million livestock died but in the previous famine from 1968 to 1969, 3,808,000 livestock had died. This showed the significance of forage. Unfortunately, nowadays, forage issues have been completely abandoned.

Several organizations such as the Mongolian State University of Agriculture, have opened classes for educating and training herders. Can you comment on this?

This is the correct approach. Special policies are necessary. Herders are more intelligent than any person. Their words are orderly and valuable. For example, Hero of Labor, State prize winning and shepherd S.Tsogtgerel. Whenever he gives a lecture about something he begins by explaining and stating the significance of whatever he is going to talk about. Herders have knowledge about wide range of topics.

I met a young Bulgarian ambassador when I was serving as Ambassador in North Korea. He asked why Mongolians are so talented. He said Mongolians learn languages very quickly and have technological talent. He mentioned that when he was studying international relations in university, Mongolians would become fluent in Russian language and graduate with three to four languages including English, Germany and Russian while others learnt basic Russian and English language. I told him Mongolians are different as Mongolia is a nation with nomadic culture and that herders that conduct pastoral cattle breeding have great amount of knowledge because they talk and communicate with nature. I also explained that herders are people with versatile minds as they observe the color of the sky and conditions of water and mountain as soon as they wake up to decide where to pasture livestock and when to gather wool. Mongolians seem to learn quickly and forget quickly. Overall, every country praises Mongolians.

 

Source: Uls turiin toim

 

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Posted by on Nov 25 2014. Filed under Prime Interview. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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