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Cross-boundary and cross-level dynamics increase vulnerability to severe winter disasters (dzud) in Mongolia

Author:
Fernández-Giménez, María E., Batkhishig, B., Batbuyan, B.
Source:
Global environmental change 2012 v.22 no.4 pp. 836-851
ISSN:
0959-3780
Subject:
case studies, collective action, disaster preparedness, disasters, focus groups, global change, households, interviews, livelihood, livestock, local government, pastures, risk, surveys, weather, Mongolia
Abstract:
Dzud is the Mongolian term for a severe winter weather disaster. With global change dzud may increase in frequency and intensity, placing livestock and livelihoods at risk. We conducted in-depth case studies of dzud impacts and responses in two mountain-steppe and two Gobi desert-steppe districts in Mongolia. We used focus groups, key informant interviews, a household survey and photovoice to document individual and community experiences with dzud and identify the factors that make some households and communities more vulnerable to dzud and others less so. We found that dzud is a complex social–ecological phenomenon and vulnerability to dzud is a function of interacting physical, biological, socio-economic and institutional factors. Vulnerability was affected by factors within and interactions between communities as well as cross-level dynamics. Communities that are well prepared for dzud at the household level may suffer disproportionate losses if exposure is increased by in-migrating livestock from other districts. Relief aid that helps prevent loss of life, suffering and impoverishment in the short-term may contribute to long-term dependence syndromes, social disparities, and lack of initiative on the part of both herders and local government. Based on our findings, we recommend that dzud policies and programs promote: (1) increased individual responsibility for disaster preparedness; (2) greater cooperation and communication on disaster planning and response among different actors within communities and across governance levels; (3) sustained and scaled out investment in building local capacity for collective action through formal herder organizations; and (4) effective cross-level institutions to manage pastoral movements and pastures.
Agid:
437631