Mercy Corps has been selected by the Government of Mongolia to receive and sell 40,000 metric tons of wheat donated by the US Department of Agriculture. The proceeds, estimated at $4.4 million, will be used to support agricultural, economic and infrastructure initiatives throughout rural Mongolia. A portion of the funds will be used by Mercy Corps to help herders affected by last year’s devastating zud to rebuild their animal herds and take steps to prevent such devastating losses again. Zud is a Mongolian term for a severe drought followed by a particularly harsh winter. Last year’s zud resulted in the loss of an estimated two million head of livestock - a resource that forms the foundation of Mongolia’s economy and rural cultural identity. In response to the zud, Mercy Corps launched a nationwide six-week-long radio program called Zud Watch that provided information about relief efforts. Mercy Corps also provided direct humanitarian aid.
“Mercy Corps is pleased to work with the Governments of the United States and Mongolia to carry out this important program,” states Mercy Corps’ Mongolia Country Director, Stephen Vance. “This program marks an important step for the Government of Mongolia as it is the first time a private agency will be responsible for receiving and selling donated food commodities. And, with Mercy Corps management, there will be total transparency and accountability of all transactions, which has not been the case in the past. This will ensure that the programs to be supported by the sale of the wheat will make a great deal of difference in the lives and livelihoods of thousands of rural Mongolians, most of whom are below the poverty line.”
The Program’s main initiatives are:
- Supporting the privatization of land, livestock breeding operations, seed production facilities and farm implement services;
- Improving the livelihood of herders and farmers by enhancing their ability to market products to urban centers by improving transportation infrastructure; and
- Restoring the livelihood of herders who lost their livestock in the 1999-2000 winter disaster through an integrated livestock restocking, water management, rangeland management and training program.
Mercy Corps has worked in Mongolia since January 1999 implementing a five-year program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The program, known as the Gobi Regional Economic Growth Initiative, assists the people of the Gobi region to achieve market-led economic growth and development. The agency currently operates in four Gobi provinces in the areas of enterprise development, rural financial services, agriculture development and market infrastructure.