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Suvraga Aguyt Co-operative
Suvraga Aguyt Co-operative
Last updated:
Tosontsengel, MN
Climate zone:

Elaine Codling Elena Parmiggiani Nuran Abulgazin Ole Deschout Paul Tan
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Suvraga Aguyt Co-operative

Project Type

Rural, Community, Philanthropic/aid, Demonstration, Educational, Financial/Economic

Project Summary

Growing vegges to survive -40C Mongolian winters! ...featured in the upcoming 'Sustainable [R]evolution' book (release date Spring 2012), read more here:

Project Description

You should try gardening here.  -40 C winters, ancient beach sand for soil, super short growing season, and little access to water.  Some co-operatives are watering 20 plus acres by hand; apart from that the locals don’t even like to eat vegetables – they’ve never had the luxury of choosing to be vegetarian.

Suvraga Aguyt was established in 2010 as a permaculture demonstration and education site, when it hosted Mongolia’s first-ever Permaculture Design Course [PDC], taught by Rick Coleman of Southern Cross Permaculture Institute (Australia).

There exists a vast well of traditional Mongolian knowledge about animal husbandry, and appropriate traditional building techniques, which the Suvraga Aguyt project taps into and draws from: Mongolians could be said to be the original organic animal farmers.  Some co-operative members still graze their family’s surviving herds on the pasture land surrounding the soum , while growing potatoes, raddishes, carrots, cabbages, tomatoes, and cucmbers on-site to supplement their primarily meat-based diet. 

As yields increase, the co-operative will have a surplus crop to barter or sell– and be able to offer the community a much higher quality product than the sometimes mouldy, often half-rotten imported produce which pass for vegetables currently sitting on the store shelves of the soum.

Animal shelters too, are being redesigned from a permacultural perspective, to more aerodynamic, yurt-like shapes, insulated with animal furs and fleeces not high-quality enough for human use [previously thrown away], and heated biologically by building hot compost heaps inside the shelters.  Abandoned Soviet-era buildings within Suvraga Aguyt’s hasha[iii] walls are being adapted and re-used as passive solar greenhouses, taking advantage of the significant thermal mass provided by the thick concrete walls, to soak up the heat which is captured and trapped by double and triple-insulated layers of glass and plastic sheeting, converting the abundant daylight[iv] into heat, storing this energy to be radiated back out during the night.  Coldframes for seedlings are built inside these greenhouses, further extending the short growing season in a place where every additional growing day increases your chances for surviving the cold winter always just around the corner.

Seeds are being saved and selected from the hardiest plants in their crops, and within a few growing seasons Mongolia will be well on its way towards developing its own crop varieties, better adapted to the short growing season and harsh conditions.  There are no heirloom varities here, the vegetable growing co-operatives of Zavkhan province are developing the region’s heirloom seedbank even as we speak.

Nitrogen-fixing species growing wild in the fields were identified for use as green manures in the broadacre production occuring in remote areas, and petrol pumps previously considered to be high-valued assets, when viewed from a permacultural perspective, were re-classified by the nomads as inefficient and wasteful liabilities, to be replaced instead by RAM pumps. Planting guilds are being designed and tested to increase resilience, resistance to pests, and overall yields, while suitable native species of tree and shrub have been identified to be planted as windbreaks, living fences, and for future coppicing. 

Ghengis Khan himself, better known as Chinggis to locals, once decreed a law that for every tree that is cut down, ten should be planted in it’s place – upon penalty of death.  There are tales passed down through the centuries, of how Chinggis inspired his troops to win hopelessly outnumbered battles, by telling stories he made from observing nature: 

“Chinggis told his army to flow down from the hills upon the enemy as the yellow waters roar down the hills with the snow melt,” recounts Food Security Director Tileyubek Ye. 

“Perhaps Chinggis was the world’s first permaculturist?”


Courses Taught Here!
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Rural Community Demonstration Educational
Matthew Lynch - Admin
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