Selenge Province - Well-Being

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Mongolians are very good at using what resources they have presented to them by nature and circumstance. At ger camps, there is a customary placement of the gers and the pens for the livestock in relation to the water supply. Many tools the nomads use on a daily basis are used for secondary purposes that allow for the preservation of those tools and help to reduce the environmental impact on a location. Preservation of the environment in the nomadic lands is extraordinarily important. One of the reasons why nomads move from one site to the next, following their herds to new grazing areas, is to allow the grass in the previous location to replenish. The animals will have eaten and trampled much of the nearby ground so it is necessary to follow them to other grounds to provide them with a new supply of grass for consumption.

While preservation of the natural world is important, it is equally important for the nomadic peoples of Mongolia to protect themselves from illness. For this reason, Mongolians make use of bandanas and other clean garments for water filtration. Despite a fairly clean natural water source, the filtration allows for dirt and other larger pathogens to be kept out of the drinking water supply by running through a filter. This use of bandanas for water filtration is one example of how the team’s hosts have multiple uses for the few objects they have. The nomads are also known for making use of yellow water for several medicinal purposes. This is especially resourceful because this is an example of a byproduct that is not wasted after processing, but used to promote well-being by acting as a digestion aid and skin care product among other uses.

Communities of nomads often come together to complete everyday tasks. While, the same people do the same jobs everyday, almost everyone knows how to do everything if necessary. There are some jobs that are considered more appropriate based on gender, but all jobs must be completed and it generally does not matter who is doing them as long as they are done. The H.I.T. team was able to experience the community coming together on a day when all the sheep were to be sheared. On that morning, people from all of the surrounding gers came out to help our host family with the big job. There were some who were not strong enough to wrestle the sheep to the ground, so there were people whose job it was to move the sheep from the pen to the shearers. Others were very efficient at shearing so they focused solely on that task, while a few were teaching some of the children. There were still others whose job it was to mark the sheep once sheared. It was a whole community effort and took the entire morning. With larger herds, this job may take all day to complete, so it is essential that all members of the ger community work together to get the job done. There is no reason for one person to finish faster than the others, because everyone has the responsibility to help those who are still working.

Resourcefulness and a community mindset have developed in large part because of the environment that exists throughout much of rural Mongolia. Ger camps in the countryside are often situated more than 20 kilometers from towns and paved roads. This presents a struggle since it can take hours to travel on rugged dirt roads, limiting access to resources such as stores and medical care. Many communities situate themselves near natural water sources such as rivers, streams, and springs as noted above. In addition, they adapt not only to the remoteness, but also to the harsh environment that Mongolia presents.

The climate of Mongolia itself presents challenges that have required the people to adapt to a myriad of conditions. This can be seen in something as simple as the eating habits of the Northern Mongolian nomads. During the spring and summer dairy products are the staple of every meal and meat is seldom eaten. This changes in the fall and winter months when meat and fat are eaten in larger quantities in order to stay healthy during the cold winter. This adaption as well as a group mentality has enabled the rural Northern Mongolians to maintain well-being in spite of drastically changing environments.

Date Entered: June 2011