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Cross-cultural exchange with Mongolia study tour

A great cross-cultural exchange occurred when a study tour group from Mongolia visited the Rangelands NRM offices this month.

The four Mongolian visitors were interested in learning about Australia’s approach to rangeland management with a particular focus on mining offsets.

The tour was funded by the Minerals and Energy for Development Alliance (MEfDA), a partnership of the University of Western Australia (UWA) and University of Queensland (UQ), through a grant for ongoing alumni engagement from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

The proposal from Alumni in Mongolia to visit Australia was competitively selected as the winner for the Asia-Pacific Region 2018.

MEfDA’s Alumni Coordinator Muza Gondwe said the study tour’s intention is to gain experiential learning on mine biodiversity offsets policies, management plans and practices.

“It aims to provide alumni opportunities to learn from leading practice by observing different ways mining and energy for development programs are designed and managed,” Muza said.

The group consisted of Ms Purevdulam Lkhagvasuren, Environment Officer, Aspire Mining Ltd (team lead), Mr Orgil Batbaatar, Senior Specialist of Environment and Mine Rehabilitation Division, Erdenes-Tavantolgoi JSC, Ms Erdenechimeg Altankhuyag, Founder, Green Development and Sustainability Center NGO and Ms Surenkhuu Luvsan, Herder Association Leader, Gurvan Tes soum of Umnugobi province.

Rangelands NRM’s Chris Curnow presented an overview of the rangelands of WA and the work Rangelands NRM does in bringing people together to work collaboratively.

We learnt that in Mongolia, herders graze their sheep, goats and camels freely on all land.

That, between 1930 until around 2008, livestock numbers have been maintained between around 16 and 34 million, but in the last ten years numbers have risen dramatically to nearly 60 million head of livestock (horse, cow, camel, sheep, goat).

This has led, as in some areas of Australia, to overgrazing.

Being on the edge of the Gobi Desert, water too is a critical resource and of particular concern to Ms Surenkhuu Luvsan, a Herder leader of one of the most affected southern pastoral districts.

She says that getting the government to set the new National Law on pasture that defines maximum livestock holdings is critical.

And, she also needs assistance getting the Tost [mountain area in Mongolia] herder cooperatives, who pay no leasing fees at all, to have a voice that’s valued.

“I was interested to hear how Rangelands NRM and its social enterprise partners are supporting Healthy Country Planning with Traditional Owners. Perhaps this is something we can use to achieve a statement of values for our Herders and the land we share in common,” she reflected at the conclusion of the Rangelands NRM-hosted gathering.

Something she took away from visiting various organisations including Rangelands NRM was that mine offset in Australia is based on great collaborations with research and science.

“It was fascinating to learn that offset programs in Australia are often internally driven by the organisations and aim for outcomes exceeding the standard or requirements,” Surenkhuu said.

Adding to the plethora of pressures on the traditional landuse of the Mongolian-Manchurian Steppe, is the expansion and intensification of open cut strip mining of the shallow coking coal reserves, with Mongolia possessing 10 per cent of the world’s known coal reserves.

Facing these issues of balance between a nation’s trade in the agricultural sector, and the increasingly competing issues faced between miners, environmentalists and herders, the group were in Western Australia on the recognition of our work in environmental offsets and balancing the need of various parties, not the least of which are Traditional Owners.

“Faced with strife from intensifying mining activity and diminishing herder members Ms Surenkhuu Luvsan [Herder Association Leader from the arid southern region] said—through her fellow colleagues interpreting—that she’s learnt the most during her week’s study tour in WA by meeting with Rangelands NRM,” Chris said.

“She was particularly interested in the efforts of many Aboriginal Groups in Western Australia using their values-based and culturally-appropriate planning methods—like Healthy Country Planning (an Open Standards approach) to re-set the conversations around the environmental offsets negotiating tables.

The group said the learning from the tour will allow them to consider how WA’s NRM community-led practice can be adapted in their local setting.

They were keen to return to Mongolia and share their learning of how Australia approaches offsets to a working group that they will convene in Mongolia, with the hope that some of Australia’s initiatives could be adapted locally.

Image: The mongolian visitors with Rangelands NRM staff