In May 2020, the first Steering Committee meeting of the Mongolia Sustainable Cashmere Platform was held at the UN House in Ulaanbaatar.
Bayarkhongor and Arkhangai, Mongolia, 29 October 2020. In the midst of a global pandemic and in light of the travel restrictions imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19 virus, how can we continue missions to the field? These are a regular occurrence within the international development community as a way to bring global and local actors together. In Mongolia, UNDP got creative. From the 19th to the 23rd of October 2020, the Mongolian Sustainable Cashmere Platform replaced flight tickets and long hours on the road with a series of innovative virtual meetings straight from the Mongolian steppes, and with the support of a Zoom link, united the country’s herders and sustainability representatives from global level luxury cashmere brands in a distinctive demonstration of virtual MultiStakeholder Collaboration For Systemic Change.
In what represents an extraordinary step forward in the Mongolian cashmere sector, Mongolian herders from Shinejinst soum, Bayankhongor aimag and Ikh-Tamir soum of Arkhangai aimag virtually met with the representatives of world-renowned luxury cashmere brands such as Burberry, Kering Group and others – a bridge to direct conversations between the most important stakeholders of the cashmere value chain. The parties discussed the impact of Covid-19 on herder households’ incomes and livelihoods, the challenges of the summer droughts, the winter preparation and the next cashmere season. They also explored the herders’ understanding about sustainability practices, market prices, fibre demand and production levels.
During the meetings, the representatives of the cashmere brands acknowledged and complimented the value of Mongolian cashmere as a luxury fibre, while the herders shared their efforts toward improving sustainable practices, including rangeland protection by reducing the number of livestock, photo monitoring of pastureland use and restoration, good animal husbandry, and improving livestock product quality -rather than quantity- through breeding programs.
Mongolian herders witnessed a 50% plunge of raw cashmere prices due to the Covid-19 impact on the global demand for cashmere, a challenge which was further exacerbated by summer droughts in south western Mongolia. With this context in mind, the herders unanimously acknowledged the urgent need to reduce the number of livestock and improve the rangeland management.
Sustainable cashmere projects and initiatives by the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA), Green Gold Animal Health project, Agronome et Vétérinaires Sans Frontières (AVSF) in Mongolia and other partner organizations are instrumental in the herders’ self-organization, governance, awareness and resolution towards sustainable practices and behavioral change.
The meeting was designed, facilitated and co-organized under the Mongolian Sustainable Cashmere Platform (MSCP) a UNDP Mongolia-led initiative with technical guidance from the UNDP’s Green Commodities Programme and in collaboration with UNDP’s ENSURE project (supported by the GEF), the Sustainable Fibre Alliance, the National Federation of Pasture User Groups and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation’s Green Gold Animal Health Project.
UNDP Senior Adviser and Strozzi Institute Leadership Coach Lise Melvin shares her guidance to those looking to convert a face to face conference into an online version.