The Mongolian Livelihood is Threatened by Disastrous Winter

Mongolia is facing their harshest winter. The “dzuds” are rigorous winter conditions that involve intense cold, substantial snow, and strong winds. The nomadic herders of Mongolia find themselves in a challenging position to maintain their livelihood due to the extreme weather conditions.

The Mongolian Livelihood is Threatened by Disastrous Winter
Winter in Mongolia. © Degleex Ganzorig, February 5, 2018, via Unsplash


Dara Masita

Human Rights Researcher 

Global Human Rights Defence

Harsh winters in Mongolia are to be expected. Strong winds, substantial snow, intense cold, and extreme snowstorms are a once-in-a-decade occurrence called “dzuds”, usually following a summer drought. However, due to climate change, dzuds have been appearing more often – there have been six dzuds in the past decade. 

Up to 40% of Mongolia constitutes nomadic herders. About a million herders depend on their 65 million livestock to provide them with energy, food, and earnings. With a summer drought being the prelude to dzuds, domesticated animals are more vulnerable to harsh winter conditions due to the lack of nourishment, and herders are unable to store as much fodder. The mortality rate for this season is high as the herders may lose their lives while caring for their animals or from snowstorms. There have been 2.1 million animals and nine people killed in the last week of February because of these unfavourable conditions.

The dzuds will only get fiercer from here. The weakening of the polar jet stream is one of the factors that causes these intense dzuds. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has pointed out that Mongolia is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. They made the calculations that dzuds will go up by 20% by 2080 even if the world keeps the temperature increase below 2˚C.

The Mongolian authorities are on high alert, delivering food, gas, and fodder supplies to support the herders. Nevertheless, this would take some time due to the remoteness of Mongolia. The United Nations is also stepping in to aid Mongolia, as they aim to mobilise $6.3 million for disaster aid relief. However, more than this funding is needed.

From this situation, it is clear that more people are suffering from climate change. The nomadic herders who have depended their livelihood on the consistency of the seasons for hundreds of years find their way of life disrupted. It underscores the need for immediate global action.

Sources and further readings:

  1. Zaya Delgerjagaal, ‘In Mongolia, a Killer Winter Is Ravaging Herds and a Way of Life’ (YaleEnvironment 360, 2024) <> accessed 12 March 2024.
  2. ReliefWeb, ‘Mongolia: Severe Winter - Dzud (2022 - 2023), As of 18 January 2023’ (ReliefWeb, 2023) <> accessed 12 March 2024.
  3. Asha Tanna, ‘Photos: Mongolia’s nomadic herders suffer brutal winters’ (AlJazeera, 2023) <> accessed 12 March 2024.