IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

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


  • David Sneath


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.

Suggested Citation

  • David Sneath, 2003. "Land use, the environment and development in post-socialist Mongolia," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(4), pages 441-459.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:31:y:2003:i:4:p:441-459 DOI: 10.1080/1360081032000146627

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cornia, Giovanni Andrea & Jolly, Richard & Stewart, Frances (ed.), 1987. "Adjustment with a Human Face: Volume 1, Protecting the Vulnerable and Promoting Growth," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198286097, June.
    2. Micklewright, John, 2002. "Social exclusion and children: a European view for a US debate," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 6430, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Dollar, David & Kraay, Aart, 2002. "Growth Is Good for the Poor," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 195-225, September.
    4. Miguel Szekely & Nora Lustig & Martin Cumpa & Jose Antonio Mejia, 2004. "Do we know how much poverty there is?," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(4), pages 523-558.
    5. Alkire, Sabina, 2005. "Valuing Freedoms: Sen's Capability Approach and Poverty Reduction," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199283316, June.
    6. Foster, James & Greer, Joel & Thorbecke, Erik, 1984. "A Class of Decomposable Poverty Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(3), pages 761-766, May.
    7. Caterina Ruggeri Laderchi, "undated". "The Monetary Approach to Poverty: A Survey of Concepts and Methods," QEH Working Papers qehwps58, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford.
    8. Sen, Amartya, 1997. "On Economic Inequality," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198292975, June.
    9. Caterina Ruggeri Laderchi, 1997. "Poverty and its many dimensions: The role of income as an indicator," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 25(3), pages 345-360.
    10. Lipton, M., 1988. "The Poor And The Poorest," World Bank - Discussion Papers 25, World Bank.
    11. Ravallion, M., 1998. "Poverty Lines in Theory and Practice," Papers 133, World Bank - Living Standards Measurement.
    12. Sen, Amartya K, 1976. "Poverty: An Ordinal Approach to Measurement," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 44(2), pages 219-231, March.
    13. Datt, Gaurav & Ravallion, Martin, 1998. "Why Have Some Indian States Done Better Than Others at Reducing Rural Poverty?," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(257), pages 17-38, February.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Upton, Caroline, 2009. ""Custom" and Contestation: Land Reform in Post-Socialist Mongolia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 37(8), pages 1400-1410, August.
    2. Undargaa, Sandagsuren & McCarthy, John F., 2016. "Beyond Property: Co-Management and Pastoral Resource Access in Mongolia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 367-379.
    3. Visser Oane & Schoenmaker Lotte, 2011. "Institutional Transformation in the Agricultural Sector of the former Soviet Bloc," Eastern European Countryside, De Gruyter Open, vol. 17(-1), pages 21-53, January.
    4. Fernández-Giménez, María E. & Batkhishig, Baival & Batbuyan, Batjav & Ulambayar, Tungalag, 2015. "Lessons from the Dzud: Community-Based Rangeland Management Increases the Adaptive Capacity of Mongolian Herders to Winter Disasters," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 48-65.
    5. Okayasu, Tomoo & Okuro, Toshiya & Jamsran, Undarmaa & Takeuchi, Kazuhiko, 2010. "An intrinsic mechanism for the co-existence of different survival strategies within mobile pastoralist communities," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 103(4), pages 180-186, May.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:31:y:2003:i:4:p:441-459. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Chris Longhurst). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.