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ACAPS Anticipatory briefing note - Mongolia: Anticipated impact of Dzuds, 15 January 2021

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300,000 semi-nomadic herders live in the Mongolian steppe, where they generate an income from farming and livestock. Over the past two decades, climate change has made what is known as a dzud more severe and more frequent. Dzuds are extreme winters characterised by freezing temperatures, heavy snow, and frozen ground, with temperatures reaching lows of -25°C, 10°C below the average (The World Bank 06/2012). While herders and animals living in this region are resilient to environmental hazards, and are used to hot summers and cold winters, dzuds put an additional strain on the lives of herders, who receive 35% of their income from livestock (FAO 2018).

More than 60 million animals, such as camels, horses, cows, buffalos, and goats, rely on the steppe for pasture. In 2018, Mongolia’s harsh winter killed more than 700,000 heads of livestock (Reuters 14/03/2018). Larger households have on average 1,200–1,500 livestock, but the poorest ones can only rely on a few hundred animals. During harsh winters, the poorest Mongolian households risk losing all means of securing their livelihoods (FAO 22/12/2017).

There is evidence that climate change is intensifying the frequency of dzuds in some Mongolian regions. In January 2020, the provinces (or aimags) at risk of dzuds were Khovd, Gobi-Altai, Uvurkhangai, Dundgobi, Zavkhan, Arkhangai, Bulgan, Khentii, Sukhbaatar, Dornogobi, and some areas of Bayankhongor (IFRC 01/2020). According to the National Agency for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring, the harsh weather expected during the coldest months, December and January, puts 50% of herders living in the monitored areas at risk of loss of livelihoods (IFRC 23/01/2020).