Local arborist works to fight desertification

Trans. by B.TUNGALAG

A resident of the 20th khoroo in Sukhbaatar District, D.Chuluunbaatar, has been planting fruit trees for 20 years.  He began by planting trees in the yard of his own summer house. He wants to plant fruit trees in places facing desertification and has started working on that goal for the benefit of all Mongolians.
Below is an interview with D.Chuluunbaatar about his plans for a greener Mongolia. 

You have been planting trees for a long time. When did you start combating desertification?

I worked for the General Staff of the Mongolian Armed Forces and retired. I have been planting trees since my retirement. I first planted a tree in the yard of my summer house. Now that tree has become a small forest.
At first, I had no experience in planting trees. Trees taught me how they grow and expand a few years later. I usually plant sea buckthorn trees in my yard.

Lately I’ve decided to plant trees in areas facing desertification, not only in my yard, to stop soil erosion. So I bought 15 hectares of land in Argalant soum of Tuv Province, my father’s birthplace. It is located 87 km away from Ulaanbaatar.
My sea buckthorn trees have been growing for 20 years, and I had to expand their area. But, I thought I should expand and plant my trees in desertification areas. It is beneficial for people and the Earth.

Which trees are you planting in areas facing desertification?

I am planting bird cherry, blackcurrant, and sea buckthorn trees in Argalant soum. They will blossom in spring. In July, they will bear fruit. In autumn, the leaves of the trees will change to red, green, and yellow. It is so beautiful.
It is not only about planting trees. Those trees will attract people’s attention and give them happiness. I am also planning to build an oasis in the desert, besides planting trees.
There are no trees like mine in Argalant soum. I hope that other people will take inspiration from my trees. I see the possibility to create jobs for retired and homeless people and combat desertification through planting trees if the state pays attention to this.

People plant saxaul trees to improve the soil and block the wind to fight desertification. Why are you planting fruit trees? Is it possible to stop desertification with fruit trees? 

Hawthorn, sea buckthorn, bird cherry, blackcurrant, and raspberry trees grow up to three meters. Perennial flowering alfalfa is being planted between sea buckthorn trees to protect them from soil degradation.
Alfalfa enriches the soil with nitrogen. We can plant alfalfa twice in the summer to be used as forage for cattle. Fruit trees are also good for people.
I am also planning to establish a pond like gardens in Japan and South Korea. I established a small pond in my yard. I feed turkeys, ducks, and geese. I have the capacity to establish a bigger pond.

How many trees did you plant in Argalant soum?

I have planted over 200 trees on three hectares within two years. Those three hectares have already given me fruit. Most of them are sea buckthorn trees. I want to expand, but I have financial issues.
I can bring more trees from Ulaanbaatar to Argalant soum. But the countryside has poor infrastructure.

Do have any partners or a partnering organization, or are you doing this work all by yourself?

I don’t have any. I took out a pension loan and am raising my trees. I built fences to protect the trees from rodents. But I don’t have the chance to dig a well because of infrastructure.
I participated in a developing rural areas project competition in 2014 organized by the Institute of Finance and Economics of Mongolia and Handong Global University of South Korea and won third place.
Sponsor organizations of the competition were supposed to sponsor winners. I haven’t received any sponsorship yet.

What are you planning to do in the future?

I am about to connect with the Mongolian and South Korean Nogoon Kherem (Green Wall) project. The project was started in 2007 by the Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism and the Korea Forest Service  to fight desertification in Mongolia. The purpose of this project and mine are same, that is why I thought we are capable of working together.
I went to see tree farms of the Nogoon Kherem project in Bayankhangai soum of Tuv Province.
Under the Nogoon Kherem project, they choose land to plant trees and prepared specialists.  But for me, I have everything except infrastructure. I have land. I am the specialist.
I am able to continue my tree farm if the Nogoon Kherem project helps me to solve electricity and water problems. It is not like I am doing nothing and begging for financial help from someone.

Care is the most important factor in planting trees, especially since Mongolia has a harsh climate and most trees can’t mature. What about your trees?

You will see the good results of something if you do that thing from the bottom of your heart. Trees are alive. Most people plant a tree and water it. They just bury that tree. Trees need constant care.
There are trees being planted in the western provinces of Mongolia. But the people who planted those trees abandoned them.

How many people are there who are planting trees? 

Mongolians don’t plant blackcurrant trees much compared to previous years. One hectare of land can hold 2,500 blackcurrant seedlings. The value of a seedling can be 8.7 million MNT. After two years, blackcurrant trees will give us fruit.
You can harvest 500 grams of fruit from a blackcurrant bush after two years. This means you can harvest 1,250 kg of fruit from one hectare of land. The

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3 Comments for “Local arborist works to fight desertification”

  1. Desertification AND deforestation ( as well as air and water pollution) are problems that require strong State, Aimag and Soum governments, Laws, enforcement and monitoring, and education of the people to stop and reverse these processes.

    Starting with outside forces – some agronomists have been trying to improve the quality of cashmere through breeding. However the Chinese are buying by volume rather than quality. So, herders do not make money by creating better quality cashmere ONLY by BIGGER herds that leads to over grazing.

    In addition herders are winning prizes from soums, Aimags and the State NOT for better quality animals or wool but for having the BIGGEST herds….again leading to overgrazing.

    Since democracy has taken place there has been no control on the size of herds, and when herds are moved onto pasture, just moved off by another herd, this lack of management or control ADDS to overgrazing. In other countries fencing off pastures and ownership of land has led to responsibility of the owners to manage their land. With open range and no control ‘the tragedy of the commons’ is taking place and desertification.

    Over grazing, particularly by goats, in the northern Aimags, as well as others, has led to loss of root systems and less grass cover which has decreased water retention, so that when it rains water flows quickly and drains to the rivers. This has led to overall lower water levels in the rivers and flash flooding when it rains.

    There are no policies nor laws in place in Mongolia, compared to other countries to replant grass nor tress where trees have been cut down. This has led to and is currently ongoing deforestation of huge areas of northern and other parts of Mongolia. This is tantamount to the rape of Mongolia’s forests by its own people.

    The Herds need to be reduced, good grass planted, and when trees are cut down 4 saplings planted in their place, which need to be protected from the goats and other animals. One well-meaning Environmental Inspector suggested I plant trees in an area of the Gobi Desert where I was working. I said, “you mean like the ones outside your office?” “yes”, he said. I asked, already knowing the answer, “why is that fence around the plants?” “To stop the goats eating them,” he said. “Exactly!” I said, the continuing on, “So, if I plant trees, either the goats eat them, or if I put up a fence around them people will steal the fence and then the goats will still eat them!”

    SO, all the suggestions above by other commenters are fine, but unless there is education about best practices and strict management of agriculture and forestry in Mongolia’s fragile environment, and STRICT Laws and enforcement and protection of the environment, the deforestation and desertification will continue. This at the moment is sadly lacking in Mongolia.

    TOOOOO much talking and not enough ACTION by all governments from soum to State.

  2. Desertification is a complex issue. Stopping wind erosion is part of it, as is building soil quality. However, these come to nothing if improper grazing is not addressed (too long on one pasture, too many goat that eat roots of grass, to infrequent movements to other areas, etc). In addition, climate change means that traditional methods might not work any more and these might need to be adapted at bit (not abandoned at all, just adapted a bit). It is the grass health that is most important and giving it time to recover between before re-grazing

    An approach needs: graze hard but short periods leaving grass higher between pasture moves, keep more mixed herds and fewer goats, develop markets for other types of wool or animal products, rotate pasture very carefully and often, move locations more often (as in the past), keep fewer livestock and invest more heavily in their nutrition to make it through dzuds to spring, allow local wolves to remain since killed packs result in new packs that breed faster and more livestock eating behavior, keep Bankhar with livestock, reduce native grazing animals that aid the grassland recovery and let wolves redirect depredation, use indigenous plants to help reduce erosion and fortify soil (non-native species become problems).

  3. So – what happened to the 2010 Cabinet approval of a national program to combat desertification?
    Details published by Montsame at the time are quoted below? Another empty government promise?
    2010-04-15 17:52:31 | | Хэвлэх | Найздаа илгээх |
    Ulaanbaatar, /MONTSAME/ Wednesday’s cabinet meeting approved a national program of combating with desertification and the first stage plan of implementing the program. The Minister of Environment and Tourism L.Gansukh was ordered to organize the program implementation, re-appoint the National Committee responsible for inter-sectors’ regulations and to coordinate program implementation.
    In a scope of the national program, the Premier instructed related officials to use scientific approaches in implementing the program, integrate it with market demands, increase business participation, establish parks and to render support for individuals in planting fruits and vegetables. (D.Chuluunbaatar, please note!)

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