After the busy seasons of spring and summer for producing cashmere fibre, herders have gathered once again this autumn, on 8 September 2023, for an important branch conference in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in run up to the international Natural Fibre Connect (NFC) conference.
Bringing together over 150 in-person attendees, the SFA Mongolia Conference included delegates from 57 herder organisations from 41 soums and across 14 provinces in Mongolia. The conference also brought together cashmere processors, researchers, academics, and specialists from the Mongolian government.
The assembly this year was held under the theme of Human-Centred Natural Fibre with a purpose and outcome that herder representatives would share their findings as part of the global NFC conference that was later held in Biella, Italy at the end of September. These herder representatives would be the voice for Mongolian producers and bring herder’s perspectives and valuable input to the discussion from source level.
What made this assembly even more unique was that it was held and organised by the herders themselves with support from the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA), the Association of Nutag Cooperatives – an inter-cooperatives initiative for better representation in the fibre market – and The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry of Mongolia (MoFALI). The event has been praised by academics for its successful organisation, meaningful presentations and discussions that were hosted by the cashmere herders.
Presentations and talks were held throughout the day, along with roundtable discussions. Topics that were discussed included:
- Herding as a profession.
- Government updates on the sector, policy, and vision.
- Necessity of collaboration of herder cooperatives.
- The benefits of practicing “One-Health” – combining health awareness campaigns for herders, animals, and the environment.
- Capacity-based training.
- Importance and requirement of developing a combined fibre standard.
- Developing standards for other fibres, including yak, sheep, and camel.
The core of the conference declared the necessity of a human-centric idea for the sector and the importance of coming together collaboratively as herder cooperatives. Key takeaways focused on discussions regarding standards for herding as a profession, the “One-Health” initiative for the welfare triangle of human-animals-environment and the new generation of herders. As well as good practices of animal husbandry in different animals and the production of natural fibres.
Further, the SFA raised the discussion and held consultations during the conference on the development of standards that branch out into other natural fibres for fibre-producing and supplying. Consultations took place for sheep, yak and camel, and were based on experience from the SFA Cashmere Standard.
Concluding the event was a spirit-lifting highlight of the conference, the Herder Sustainability Awards, a presentation of nominated herders and herder cooperatives celebrating their achievements over the past year. The six main award categories were:
- Best Cooperative for Quality Improvement
- Best Producer Organisation for Animal Welfare
- Best Producer Organisation for Land Management
- 3 awards for Best Female Herder
- 4 awards for Best Herder Trainer
- 4 awards for Best Young Herder
The awards were sponsored and presented by the SFA and SFA brand members, including Scottish-based brands Johnstons of Elgin and Alex Begg, who once again sponsored the Best Young Herder and Best Producer Organisation for Land Management awards, respectively. And the Best Female Herder award was sponsored this year by Mongolian brand Sor Cashmere.
The SFA would like to thank everyone for attending this year’s SFA Mongolia Conference, to all the inspirational speakers and to all our sponsors and supporters. As well as a heartfelt congratulations too the winners of this year’s Herder Sustainability Awards!
SFA COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER
11 October 2023