Mercy Corps Mongolia Update

13 Jun 2010, by Kim in Uncategorized

A big thanks to the Mercy Corps Seattle office and Dominic Graham, Mercy Corps’ country director for Mongolia, for inviting the team to a wrap-up meeting regarding their work in Mongolia.  Oidov Vaanchig, project officer for Mercy Corps (MC) in Mongolia, put on a great presentation summarizing their hard work which focuses on civil society empowerment, economic development, and natural resource development and management.  We wanted to provide this update to the friends and fans of Baatar Hero as a reminder to where all your generous donations are going.  We, and most importantly, the people of Mongolia, can’t thank you enough.

There are many NGOs working in Mongolia, and most pour all their efforts in the capitol, Ulaanbaatar.  But MC is different.  Working in Mongolia since 1999, MC focuses on improvements in the countryside where one-third of Mongolia’s population still lives.  MC’s basic aid philosophy is to empower the people to help themselves to the point where outside aid is no longer needed.  How many companies strive to work themselves out of a job?  MC does, and they do it by employing 95% of their 3500 staff members in the country for which they work.

The meeting started out with the announcement that MC Mongolia recently won the 2010 Disability Inclusion Award given by InterAction and Mobility International USA.  People with disabilities are one of the most marginalized groups in rural Mongolia and the MC team has had impact throughout the entire country through policy change and encouraging a culture of inclusion.  Eighty-nine percent of Mongolia’s persons with disabilities are unemployed and a mere 29% of children with disabilities are in school.  MC’s team envisioned solving both of these problems with first addressing Mongolia’s infrastructure inaccessibility.  They aimed high by proposing to the Mongolian parliament an improvement model based on the U.N. Convention on Rights for People with Disabilities with special focus on transportation, education and construction.  Their diligence paid off!  Starting in February 2010, the Mongolian government now enforces new accessibility standards, the first ever in their history.  Congratulations to MC!

Regarding MC’s economic development efforts, they are creating market opportunities for rural entrepreneurs – work highly regarded by both Mongolian government and non-government agencies for MC’s efficiency and success.  In particular, the Mongol Rally has been instrumental in these efforts by providing capitol for grant programs for the rural self employed.  MC is also helping communities obtain fair microfinancing and creating agribusiness support systems, such as transporting goods to market.   To date, 5 Mongolian banks are now involved in providing fair micro credit with loans totaling $2.66 million.  Another example of MC’s most successful programs for rural entrepreneurs is a computerized grazing predictor model.  With 90% accuracy this program predicts grassland conditions for livestock grazing 60 days in advance for nomadic herders.  It proved so successful that it is now funded by the World Bank.

Finally, an update on the recent disastrous cold weather, called a Dzud, was provided.  Although not consistently cyclical, Dzud’s can occur once or twice a generation with devastating effects.  An estimated 15-20 million livestock have been lost in this year’s Dzud and with it the livelihood of thousands of nomadic families.  As a result, approximately 20,000 Mongolians will move to Ulaanbaatar in attempts to make a living in a city that does not have the infrastructure to support them.  Additionally devastating are the health implications of millions of rotting livestock carcasses.  The Mongolian government provides cash incentives for herders to gather and burn the carcasses, but sadly this time around the funds are slow in reaching those who need it.   Therefore, MC rapidly raised $25,000 to distribute directly to herders to help them get back on their feet.

Thanks again to Mercy Corps and our donors.  The team is looking forward to volunteering with MC while traveling through Mongolia this summer.  Let’s keep working hard together!