The Nomadic Herders of Mongolia

Project Date: 2012

Book Release Date: December 2012

Mongolia is on the fast track for change: with some of the world’s largest reserves in coal, copper, and gold, the country is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing economies in the world. But will this change effect everyone positively, and what will be its effect on Mongolian culture?

Mongolian pastoral herders make up one of the world’s last remaining nomadic cultures. For millennia they have lived on the steppes, grazing their livestock on the lush grasslands. But today, their traditional way of life is at risk on multiple fronts. Alongside this rapidly changing economic landscape, climate change and desertification are also threatening nomadic life, killing both herds and grazing land. Due to severe winters and poor pasture, many thousands of herders have traded in their centuries-old way of life for employment in mining towns and urban areas. The ger (yurt) camps that ring the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, house a permanent population of displaced nomads. There, they live without running water or a tangible use for the skills and crafts that were practiced on the steppes. The younger generation is no longer learning these essential aspects of their nomadic heritage.

In 2012, the Vanishing Cultures Project journeyed to Mongolia to document the ancient traditions and current practices of Mongolian nomadic herders. We found several cultural preservation initiatives to support, and we hope our book, Mongolia’s Nomads: Life on the Steppe, can contribute to the preservation efforts of this fascinating lifestyle.


Check out our articles and slideshows about Mongolian nomads:

The Atlantic - The Dark Side of Mongolia’s Mineral Boom
Boston Globe - Mongolia’s Nomads
The Christian Science Monitor - Earth and Air Shape Mongolia
Global Oneness Project - Mongolia’s Nomads
Focus Magazine - Gli Ultima Nomadi
Emaho Magazine - Mongolia: Escape from the Desert
MSN - Vanishing Cultures
Public Radio International - Naadam: Mongolia’s Ancient Mid-Summer Sports Fest
Huffington Post - How Mongolian Culture May Change Drastically Within a Generation
Huffington Post - Tradition ‘Wrestles’ with Modernity at Mongolia’s Naadam Festival