Khishig-Undur is an average village representative of most of the Mongolian countryside. Its 3,000 inhabitants (of which two-thirds of nomads) doesn’t present any particular characteristic – its structure, geo-climatic environment or socio-economic context being quite average. It has around 1,000 citizens in the centre and around 2,000 people live a nomadic lifestyle.
Ecosoum is the fruit of an initiative by a French-Mongolian couple from Khishig-Undur and it is an association for rural development based on ecological and solidarity values, created in September 2018. The organization aims to empower its inhabitants so they can make their soum a model of local autonomous sustainable development that can inspire the whole country. Their main project is Waste Management:
AWARENESS-RAISING OF THE POPULATION AND LOCAL INSTITUTIONS.
From the beginning of the project, their first activities were focused on raising the awareness of the population and staff of local institutions (administration, school, kindergarten and hospital). This work has been ongoing throughout the year through multiple formal meetings and countless informal discussions.
ADVOCACY AND SUPPORT TO LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Their awareness-raising and advocacy work with the soum authorities - to encourage them to take more action towards better waste management - has gradually evolved into true collaboration as mutual trust was built up. Ecosoum is now considered by the local authorities as the soum’s key actor for waste management.
WASTE COLLECTION AND CLEANING OF IMPACTED AREAS
Thanks to the mobilization of many members of the association, especially youngsters of the “Eco Club” they have also managed to make the 2019 edition of Khishig-Undur‘s Naadam the cleanest in the soum’s recent history.
They have set up a small temporary sorting centre in a garage so that the first inhabitants who started sorting their waste are not discouraged by the lack of collection facilities. Several households are already disposing of their recyclable waste in the dedicated area.
In order to start recycling plastic waste, they have built – with the help of two foreign engineer students –two machines to crush the plastic and then melt it in a mould. By this method, after several tests, they were able to recycle approximately one hundred single-use plastic bowls (used during Naadam) to manufacture a solid stool. This prototype will be followed by other items as the population will bring them more and more plastic waste.
REPLACEMENT OF SINGLE-USE ITEMS BY REUSABLE ONES
Since reducing the production of waste is much better than just recycling it, Ecosoum also strives to promote a transition from single-use disposable items to reusable ones. The first step taken by the association was to replace the single-use plastic shoe-covers which were used in the hospital and kindergarten to avoid dirtying buildings with reusable ones made out of fabric. The next step will be to replace single-use baby diapers with more eco-friendly washable models
HOUSEHOLD WASTE COMPOSITION STUDY
In order to fill the huge lack of data regarding the composition of household waste not only in Khishig-Undur but throughout all rural Mongolia, they conducted a summer and winter survey of 36 families (10% of households in the village). We showed that the sedentary households in Khishig-Undur produce an average of 3.7 kg of waste per week, almost half (by weight) of it being glass (27%) or plastic (20%) in summer.