Community based natural resource management in Altai Sayan Mountains

Midori Paxton
Published: 15 November 2015
Last edited: 02 October 2020
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The UNDP supported GEF financed project “Community-based Conservation of Biological Diversity in the Mountain Landscapes of Mongolia’s Altai Sayan Eco-region” worked with local communities within the area to apply community-based management and conservation strategies that empower herder communities to resolve forest and grassland management problems through partnerships with governments and NGOs.


East Asia
Scale of implementation
Grassland ecosystems
Temperate grassland, savanna, shrubland
Ecosystem services
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Indigenous people
Legal & policy frameworks
Local actors
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Other theme
Sustainable Livelihoods, Sustainable Resource Management
Land and Forest degradation
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Physical resource extraction
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of technical capacity
Poor monitoring and enforcement


Altai, Bayan-Ölgii Province, Mongolia
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Forest and grassland degradation through overharvesting and overgrazing The above challenge is exacerbated by other factors such as seasonal fires and droughts, hunting and river pollution. Mining (both legal and illegal) also poses threats. Some key underlying causes for these include inadequate capacities of local and national governments to plan and enforce conservation actions, and poor incentives and involvement of local communities in natural resources management.


Local herding communities in Altai Sayan Region of Mongolia. The 64 officially registered community groups involving 912 herder families manage natural resources on land covering approximately 513,500 hectares.

How do the building blocks interact?

The Altai Mountains are a critical area for global conservation. They are a key habitat for endangered species, such as the snow leopard. With the arrival of the market economy in the 1990s in Mongolia, pressure on natural resources has grown in the Altai Sayan region. The country has 10,898,000 ha of forest (7 % of total land area) of which 47% is primary forest, 7% is production forest, and 45% is under protection. Much of the forest areas are in the Altai Sayan Ecoregion. Wildlife numbers declined as a result of overhunting and overfishing, and livestock pasture lands deteriorated. At the start of the project, the number of Argali sheep was as low as 250 individuals. Overgrazing is one of the main causes of environmental degradation in the range, worsened further by the harsh effects of extreme weather events. To reduce threats to biodiversity from unsustainable use, the Altai Sayan Project has worked with communities to manage natural resources such as pastures, wild animals, and plants, while also improving livelihood by expanding opportunities for herders. This project was supported by UNDP, GEF, and the Government of The Netherlands.


Diversified livelihoods. Over 7,000 herders were given training in wildlife management as well as new trades, including weaving, felt making, dairy product processing, marketing, and tourism Diversification of livelihoods has reduced pressure on resources (the population of globally important target species measurably increased over the project’s lifetime) and gives communities more options during extreme weather conditions. Improved coordination and capacity within the nomadic communities. Once groups of nomadic herders began organizing and managing their own natural resources, they started to support each other in additional ways. Many communities even decided to decrease the number of livestock to reflect what the grasslands could support. They also established a hospitality ger for tourists who want to experience the nomadic life. Fifteen percent of tourism income is put into the community fund and the rest is divided among the household.


Please see the communication piece which is attached below.

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Midori Paxton United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

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United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)