Old Ways Disappearing In The New Mongolia
Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan and nomadic herders, is in the midst of a remarkable transition. Rich in coal, gold and copper, this country of fewer than 3 million people in Central Asia is riding a mineral boom that is expected to more than double its GDP within a decade. The rapid changes simultaneously excite and unnerve many Mongolians, who hope mining can help pull many out of poverty, but worry it will ravage the environment and further erode the nation’s distinctive, nomadic identity.
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Mongolia is a country of tremendous contrasts. Consider this: Two out of every five Mongolians make their living herding goats, sheep and camels.
But last year — according to World Bank estimates — Mongolia’s economy grew faster than any other on the planet, driven by a mining boom.
The Central Asian nation seems to be racing from a nomadic culture to an industrial one practically overnight. To appreciate how this transition — and its inevitable tensions — play out in the lives of ordinary Mongolians, spend a few hours with Bat-Erdene Badam and his family.
Bat-Erdene, 47, is a lifelong herder who lives in a ger, or a yurt, in the middle of the Gobi. He spends each spring combing cashmere from his goats. On a recent day, a goat lies stretched out on its side in a ger, its horns tethered to the ground. A fellow herder rakes off tufts of white cashmere with what looks like a gardening tool as the goat yelps in fear.
Bat-Erdene sells the cashmere for about $20 a pound. Combings from his 300 goats should bring in more than $6,000 this year.
That’s decent money in the middle of the Gobi, a mix of moonscape, mountain and increasingly arid grassland in southern Mongolia. But Bat-Erdene’s three children have no interest in the family business.
“Young people stopped herding animals,” says Bat-Erdene, leaning against the wooden gate of a corral filled with goats. “There are lots of employment opportunities for them in the mining business. Therefore, I could probably say that the generation of herders is ending with me.” …………………READ OR LISTEN TO THE STORY……………..