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The Last Nomads

September 27, 2023

By John Rieger and Tracie Yang

The ger, also known as a yurt, is the traditional dwelling of Mongolia’s nomadic herders. (Photo: Dina Julayeva / Shutterstock)

Mongolia may be experiencing a more radical transformation of its traditional way of life than any other place in Asia, says Badruun Gardi. He’s the founder of Gerhub, a Mongolian NGO working on the most pressing issues in Mongolia’s rapidly growing capital city.

Thirty percent of Mongolians are still nomadic herders, living in traditional gers, or yurts, on the vast, empty steppes that have been their home for millennia. But today those yurts sport solar panels and satellite dishes, windows to a different Mongolia that is inexorably drawing people to the city. Nearly half of Mongolia’s population now lives in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, a majority in the sprawling settlements of yurts and small dwellings known as the ger areas, where new arrivals contend with a host of urban problems.

Gardi joins us today from Ulaanbaatar. He is a graduate of Stanford University and has just finished a year-long Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard School of Design, which brought together practitioners from around the globe who are addressing societal challenges in the built and natural environment. Gardi is also a creative executive at Salmira Productions, a media finance and production company, and a term trustee of The Asia Foundation. 

In this week’s conversation, Gardi calls Mongolia “the last nomadic state,” and reflects on the stresses of development and the lessons to be learned from this still-vibrant nomadic population as we all confront the growing prospect of worldwide climate disruption.

 

2 Comments

  1. Very insightful conversation. Thank you, Badruun!

  2. Interesting discussion but what about the increasing pasture degradation in this “last nomadic country”?

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