|The project in Mongolia reduced poaching and stabilized the Taimen fish population, preserving natural resources.
Anyone who has been to Mongolia will tell you that it is a staggeringly beautify country. One of the most beautiful parts of the country is in the Khuvsgul region in the north of the country, which includes a fabulous lake and the Eg and Uur rivers. The region contains an intricate and rich ecosystem, with a surprising variety of fish (pdf) and other species.
It was a surprise to discover, shortly after arriving to Mongolia, that the International Finance Corporation (IFC) had been running a conservation project in this region for five years. Funded by the Global Environmental Fund (GEF), the project worked to protect the Eg-Uur watershed and a threatened fish species, Hucho Taimen while also providing income to local communities.
Implemented by the Taimen Conservation Fund, a Mongolian NGO, the project established a watershed management system in the area which engaged local communities and government. Patrolling by rangers was strengthened, watershed management councils were established, and an environmental education program was launched to reinforce the idea of conservation. The sport fishing industry worked closely with the community and established a "catch and release" policy that provided tourism income without damaging fish stocks. As a result, poaching was reduced and the Taimen fish population was stabilized (in contrast to other regions of Mongolia, where fish stocks declined), preserving natural resources with significant potential for eco-tourism.
|The Taimen Conservation Fund staff with Randy Kramer at the project's field camp in Mongolia.
IFC's work going forward will probably not include projects like these. Instead, it will focus more on climate change and energy efficiency, which is closer to its core business. Fortunately, the Boroo Mining Company, a Canadian-Mongolian joint venture, will pick up where IFC left off and continue to fund activities started by the project.
Unfortunately, the project closed shortly after I arrived, so I did not have the chance to work with it. My only involvement was meeting with the consultant evaluating the project, Randy Kramer, an environmental economist who has worked on several IFC environmental projects.
The lessons he learned from the project are valuable for any organization involved in conservation and well worth sharing:
- Applied science can significantly contribute to the effective management of threatened species, such as Hucho Taimen.
- Environmental awareness coupled with cultural traditions can greatly strengthen local appreciation for environmental conservation.
- Broad stakeholder participation – including communities, local government, NGOs, and the private sector – can lead to successful natural resource management.
- The business community can be a powerful ally for nature conservation.
Although the project is now closed, I keep hearing positive things about it. Hopefully it will be replicated in other regions of Mongolia. I look forward to visiting the Eg-Uur region and seeing it for myself.