Mongolia is susceptible to a weather phenomenon known as the dzud – a disaster involving a summer drought followed by a harsh winter with heavy snow, ice and temperatures as low as minus 50c, devastating the livelihoods of thousands of herding families.

During a poor summer harvest, the country’s 800,000 herders have insufficient fodder to feed their animals through the bitter winter that follows. In 1999 and 2001, the dzud depleted 30 per cent of the country’s livestock. Again, in the dzud of 2009-2010, 11 million – 25 per cent - of Mongolia’s livestock perished within six months.  

Poverty has been estimated to affect 47 per cent of rural populations in Mongolia. Due to climatic hardships and economic losses, it was estimated that by October 2010, 1400 herding families had been forced to relocate to the city. Livestock herding is a traditional livelihood strategy which has been vital to the Mongolian population for centuries, and urbanisation of herding families places this culture at risk, increasing pressures on the rapidly growing city of Ulaanbaatar.

SPANA works in partnership with Cambridge Mongolia Development Appeal (  on a programme to fund the provision of grass cutting equipment and livestock fodder storage barns. This project is helping herders to prepare for the dzud, supporting their livestock and livelihoods by reducing their vulnerability to these potentially devastating winters.

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