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Land use, the environment and development in post-socialist Mongolia

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  • David Sneath
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    This paper describes the economic policies that have transformed the pastoral sector in post-socialist Mongolia, and their impact on pastoral land use. These policies reflect the influence of development economists from the Asian Development Bank who have been advising the Mongolian government, and their conviction that exclusive private rights to land are a necessary precondition of an efficient rural market economy. These assumptions stand in marked contrast to indigenous Mongolian conceptions of rights over land, and the policy debate reflects the contested nature of knowledge of the Mongolian environment. However, far from preventing damage to the resource base, evidence suggests that these policies of land allocations may actually be exacerbating problems of pasture degradation. This paper argues that policies of this kind reveal a misunderstanding of the nature of Mongolian pastoralism and the conditions that have made it viable in the past. Although international development agencies lionize a romanticized notion of Mongolian “traditions” as reflecting a “respect for nature”, there is little appreciation of the actual institutions that successfully conducted pastoralism until recently, the concrete embodiment of Mongolian pastoral knowledge. Environmentalist agendas reflect a familiar western interest in promoting western conservationist ideology and establishing and expanding protected areas to harbour wildlife and biodiversity. Mongolian practices tend to be cast as “traditions” to be utilized for the greater goal of conservation as conceived of in western terms, rather than seen as part of wider social and political institutions of land use.

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    Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Oxford Development Studies.

    Volume (Year): 31 (2003)
    Issue (Month): 4 ()
    Pages: 441-459

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    Handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:31:y:2003:i:4:p:441-459
    DOI: 10.1080/1360081032000146627
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