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A delegation from the Institute for Development of Agricultural Cooperation (IDACA) represented by Mr. Toru Nakashima, Manager, Training and Department Department/ General Affairs Department and Ms. Hiroko Tayama, staff of Training Department and the International Cooperative Alliance Asia and Pacific (ICA-AP) represented by Balasubramanian Iyer, Regional Director visited Mongolia to meet participants of the ICA-Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries training program and to review the implementation of the Action Plan.


Follow-up team with participants at NAMAC office.


Cooperatives in Mongolia



The new cooperative movement in Mongolia has been developing over the past 20 years, changing its characteristics and basic principles dramatically compared to cooperatives in socialist regime. The development of cooperatives is seen as beneficial to create jobs and improve livelihoods in a country which has low population and small market.


The governments interest is to increase cooperatives’ contribution to society by creating favorable legal and economic environment, to develop small and medium enterprises intensively, improve competitiveness, and increase collaboration among cooperatives and supportive institutes. Currently there are over 4,200 cooperative nationwide with a predominant number in the agriculture and livestock sector.


In 1995, Mongolia drafted its first cooperative law; which has been amended at various times (1998, 2002, 2006). Efforts have been underway since 2010 to ensure cooperatives are recognized as a form of business and to have amendments made to existing cooperatives laws to fit with ICA’s definition that cooperatives are businesses owned and run by and for their members.  The most recent effort has been the submission (September) of a draft law by a group of representatives of the Great State Hural (Parliament), which include Mr. Eldev-Ochir Lkhagvaa, President National Association of Mongolian Agricultural Cooperatives (NAMAC)  and Mr. Nyamaagiin Enkhbold, President Mongolia National Cooperative Association (MNCA).



The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry’s goal is to promote sustainable development concept in Mongolia. Towards this end they are looking to develop intensive livestock farming based on the population concentration and market demand; increase the fertility of soil, reduce land deterioration, adopt economical and efficient techniques; support the business and economics of herders and herder groups, small and medium sized farmers; develop the industrial sector; and introduce advanced technology. The plan is to raise the share of agriculture from 17.4% (2017) to  20% (2030) and increase income of herders by 80%. Mongolia has a substantive livestock population which includes lamb (27.3 m), sheep (30.1 m), cow (4.4 m), horse (3.9 m), and camel (0.4m); which provide meat, milk, wool, cashmere, and leather. The SME and cooperative sector policy is to stabilize SME and coop development,  increase finances, improve competitiveness, market expansion, clusters, training, incubation.


The National program on cooperative development has been implemented in three phases. The first phase from 1998 to 2008 focused on promotion, development and strengthening of cooperatives. The second phase from 2009 to 2017 focused on creation of enabling environment and strengthening the supply chain. The third phase from 2019 to 2024 which was recently approved will increase production and raise awareness and share of cooperatives (budget still needs to be allocated).


Interview with Participants



We met some of the participants individually and also visited the cooperatives to see the implementation of the action plan. Some of the participants when they attended the training were employees of NAMAC; after the training, they have moved to other organizations. The important things are  that they continue to be involved in cooperatives, carry out their action plan, and put in place learning from the training.


Giikhnaran Mashbat attended the Fostering Leaders to Reinforce  Business Development of Agricultural Cooperatives in 2016. His action plan was to strengthen the marketing system of NAMAC by looking into the environment for cooperatives, introducing marketing systems similar to JA, and upgrade training given to members. Upon coming back, he introduced the action plan to his co-workers.


Giikhnaran focused his attention on improving the visibility of the cooperative brand. The NAMAC Agri-Coop brand has been shared with members at the annual meetings and in exhibitions. Competition is held to choose the products with the highest quality which can use the Agri-coop brand. 


In 2017, Giikhnaran got an offer to join Caritas, an interntional NGO, as Coordinator for one of their projects. After having spent a few years in NAMAC, he felt this was a good opportunity to pursue as he would still be involved in cooperatives and work in the same sector – agriculture. His role in Caritas is to conduct surveys (baseline information on income and status) in two provinces, organize trainings (green house farming, improve consumption), form the 200 members into groups (which would later be cooperatives), and market the products. The project which was to end in 2020 has been extended by one year. Even though he has left NAMAC, he is still in touch with them.


The ICA-MAFF training he underwent is still very relevant to his work in Caritas. During the training he learned about the importance of quality, marketing and understanding customer’s needs. In Mongolia, most agriculture produce are imported from China which are not secure. Also the produce is not graded based on quality. The aim of the project is to increase household income from 1.5 million Tugrik to 3 million Tugrik. In order to do this, he is developing business plan with the groups, teaching them to grow  vegetables in green houses and encouraging them to brand their products. Mongolia has harsh weather and vegetable growing is seasonal; to boost income he is teaching some members to make soap during winter.


Zinamyadar Dashdonov  attended the Fostering Agricultural Cooperatives for Food Value Chain training in 2018. His action plan is to increase productivity of herders in Undurshireet soum. The project is being implemented  with 467 herder families. Animal husbandry is the main source of income and money is earned by supplying dairy products, meat, wool, cashmere and skin.  The project involves serving the veterinary needs of herders at an affordable price. This in turn would help herders manage livestock better, increase productivity, improve quality, and derive better prices. The veterinary services provided over the year would involve processing, deworming, deeping, dropping and disinfecting. The uniqueness of the project is that is rests largely on trade in sheep rather than in cash. This fits well with the herders strength to rear and the cooperative’s to provide service.  Meetings have taken place with the herders and the project initiated on pilot basis with 10 households.


Byambatseren Dorjsuren attended the Fostering Leaders to Reinforce Business Development of Agricultural Cooperatives in 2015. Her action is to enhance Youth participation in the Agricultural Sector. The ICA-MAFF training program was the first exposure for Byambaa in an international development context. Given her background in law she had to do more study to know about the agriculture sector and dwell deeper to understand the needs of farmers. “I have taken more interest in farmers and their capacity development. In meetings with members,  I always start with the developments in the agriculture sector in Japan and the role of cooperatives in improving the situation of farmers. I talk about the importance of marketing, value addition, and presentation.”


The action plan was  based on a survey when NAMAC started work the Asian Farmers Association for Rural Development to organize a national youth forum in 2013. Most young people are not interested in agriculture. Even as the number of students graduating with a degree in agriculture is increasing, there is a decreasing trend in those joining agriculture. Farming in Mongolia, as in other countries is also facing the issue of aging farmers. In many cases, the husband stays back in the soum to take care of the herd, while the wife and children move to the city (for education).


There is good basis for focusing on youth as the population of the country as a whole is relatively young, with the average age being 27.5 years. About 59% of Mongolia's residents are under the age of 30, while over a quarter of that population is under the age of 14. The young population, coupled with a growth rate of 1.31%, has put a strain on the country's economy.  (source: )



The youth outreach has been put in place to increase the number of youth in agriculture, provide work opportunities of interest to youth, enhance awareness about cooperatives, and meaningfully use the talent of youth. NAMAC has signed an MoU with the university to give lecture of cooperatives and agriculture, provide opportunities for youth to experience cooperatives, and hold competitive events among youth (to generate interest). Internet access and electricity is an issue in rural areas and having these would motivate more youth to move away from cities.  NAMAC is also engaged with various ministries in charge of cooperatives and is mooting the idea of school cooperatives.


NAMAC has held four (4) youth forums (three regional and one smaller) in which around 200 youth under the age of 35 have participated. The purpose of these forums is to promote youth and sustainable development. The Forum is an opportunity to raise awareness and promote all forms of cooperatives. During the NAMAC annual assembly, a special event is held focused on youth. Youth in provinces are encouraged to form small groups and have their own activities. In some centers women come together and form a community and engage in handicrafts and other income generation activity. 


The third Sustainable Development and Young Cooperators was being held during the time of the follow-up visit at the Bakh Bayang Institute of Peace. Around 50 youth and government representatives from 9 aimag in the Central region were present at the training. The topics covered during the training were on decent work, gender, good governance, leadership, and participation.


Tuul Tuvshinbayar and Otgonbolor Gantumur  attended the Fostering Agricultural Cooperatives for Food Value Chain training in 2017. Their action plan was to develop Marketing Business of Dairy Cooperative.


The Suun Dalai Tsatsal cooperative in Bayang Chandman Soum, Tuv province is located around 70 kms from Ulaan Batar. In 2009, with the support of the participants and Global Communities, the members came together as a producer group. In 2013, the cooperative was registered and it currently has 16 members who each have three to four cows. Initially the cooperative was not well recognized, the price which members got was low, and there was less capacity to process.


The yield from the cows is low, the cooperative is working to provide veterinary service and nutritious fodder. The milk collected is processed and converted to dairy products (cheese, ice cream) and sold in the shop set up by the cooperative (supported by the Support to Employment Creation in Mongolia project by the EU and UNIDO), made-to-order, and in exhibitions.


The cooperative used to share its profits till 2016. Since then, it has accumulated the money and taken a loan (5 million tugrik) from the soum to build a new space for office and processing (up to 1 tonne per day). The cooperative also has four employees.


The members of the cooperatives had visited Anand in India to study the AMUL cooperative model. The learnings the members carried to their cooperative were: commitment of members (time devoted to the cooperative), need to expand products, timely testing and carrying out processing. According to Tsermaa, the Chairperson, “Quality is the most important part of production. We are very particular to see that hygienic practices are introduced.”


The cooperative would like to increase the number of members. The criteria which it would look at were knowledge about cooperative, attitude of members, and willingness to work for the cooperative.