Frigid Finance Part 2: The Realities of Mongolia’s Harsh Winter
By Beth Ritchey, KF10, Mongolia
Mongolians are used to dealing with a cold winter – temperatures are typically in the -20s (F) with often brutal winds. This winter however has taken on a deadly intensity. Summer droughts have combined with early and heavy snowfall to create what in Mongolia is known as a dzud. One of the harshest features of a dzud is the livestock’s inability to find or reach pasture under the snow, leading to mass starvation of the herds. This winter’s dzud has seen temperatures close to -60F and the UN is reporting that 2.7 million livestock have perished so far. The Mongolian government is estimating that another 3 million could be lost by the end of the cold season in June.*
In a country where one third of the population relies on herding, this dzud has had a devastating effect. Akbar Usmani, Acting UNDP Resident Representative in Mongolia, has said “Livestock is the cornerstone of existence for so many Mongolians and many people have lost all their direct income and food source”. Estimates show that some herders have lost more than 50% of their livestock. Attached below is a video shot by Arshad Sayed, the World Bank Country Manager for Mongolia. The video is taken in western Mongolia in two of the aimags (provinces) most affected by the dzud. Please note: this video contains strong images of dead animals and may not be suitable for everyone.
In response, the UNDP has instituted a ‘cash-for-work’ program aimed to help those herders most affected. One of the primary concerns of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is the spread of disease and soil pollution from the dead carcasses that have not been properly disposed. The UNDP program “aims to reach 60,000 herders, with special emphasis on those with fewer than 200 animals who have been particularly adversely affected.” The program will provide income to herders in exchange for clearing and burying the dead animals, a difficult task given the frozen ground.
Many Kiva lenders are wondering what effect this dzud is having on the Kiva borrowers in Mongolia. XacBank, currently Kiva’s only active partner MFI in Mongolia, has said that “live stock loss is reaching a significant level in some regions, leading to an increase in NP [non-performing] Loans in a short time. The dzud, or harsh winter, is seriously affecting micro borrowers in terms of narrowing demand for their products as well as badly damaging businesses which are involved in local transportation.”
If you’d like to read more about the situation please take a look at the World Bank’s Mongolia news page.
*Source: UN News Centre
Beth Ritchey is currently serving in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia as a member of Kiva Fellows 10th class.