Byats-Khandaa Jargal (Mongolia)


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“Our program and our success encouraged the government, and the mandarins in the agricultural ministry. But, green revolutions are made by the those who work and have ideals, not by mandarins.”

Byats-Khandaa Jargal, an agronomist and a farmer, was born in a Nomadic herder family. A gold medallist in her academic work, she now heads the Mongolian Women Farmers’ Association founded by her in 1999 and devoted to supporting livelihoods of the poor. In 2003 she was awarded the International Prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Life by the Women’s World Summit Foundation. Byats-Khandaa is known as one of the most socially oriented, realistic and practical leaders in the women’s movement in Mongolia.

Byats-Khandaa would often go round to people’s homes and offer advice on farming. At one place, she found the garden overgrown with wild grass and suggested that the owners cut the grass so the vegetables underneath could grow. The next day when she returned, she found all the vegetables had been dug up and the grass left intact! Despite such confusions, she has made a success of her small-farming concept, and for the poor it has also proved a good business. With permission from the local administration she set up a successful six-hectare community garden in 1999 that operates on a rotational basis, with each family being given a plot of land for one year. Its purpose is to provide practical horticultural training so that the poor have a fighting chance of surviving in conditions of mass unemployment and poverty. Many do well and also become trainers themselves. One of the initiators of the Green Revolution in the post-socialist Mongolia, Byats-Khandaa at first lacked funds and had to rent out her two-room flat in the city center. She put the money gained into a project supporting low-income households. She has for many years run a soup kitchen that serves 30 to 150 poor children and women every day. In return, they are asked to attend training in handicrafts in the same kitchen. Byats-Khandaa works closely with the Mongolian Women Farmers’ Association (Mwfa). The Mwfa constructed a new spacious and well equipped training center that aims at transforming the Bayankhoshuu gher-dwelling (felt tents) area into a prosperous oasis of small horticulture, pig and chicken farming adapted to the peri-urban social and natural environment. The Center develops techniques of organic vegetable growing and is already capable of marketing its produce in the city areas. Byats-Khandaa’s work has been widely appreciated.

Mongolian Women Farmers’ Association (Mwfa)

Eastern Asia | Mongolia

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