Herding Health

Story By Randy Roughton
Video by Andrew Breese

Despite widespread poverty and malnutrition, Lt. Col. Douglas D. Riley believes Mongolia, with its vast amount of livestock, could be Asia’s “protein basket.” Of course to reach its potential and feed the continent’s many hungry people, changes have to be made.

That’s why the Air Force veterinarian has been visiting the country. To date, he’s made four trips to Mongolia, and on his most recent visit, Riley worked with Mongolia’s armed and border forces to show veterinarians how to produce healthier herds.

“What’s really ironic is that Mongolia, being part of Asia, sits in the poorest section of the world with the most malnutrition in the world,” said Riley, who’s assigned to the 13th Air Force Cooperative Health Engagement Division. “Yet Mongolia has the ability, with its livestock alone, to feed the vast majority of Asia through the protein in the animals if the animals and the ground were managed properly.”

The Department of Defense and Air Force interest in humanitarian operations in countries like Mongolia is to foster a more stable country, one more difficult to be infiltrated by terrorists. On the ground in Mongolia, Riley hoped his work assisted this effort.

“If we can find a way to build partnerships, maybe, just maybe, at the end of the day, we won’t have to worry about country or state-on-state war,” he said. “Because we are so small a world now, through globalization and the ability to move from point to point, if we don’t find a way to tie ourselves together with an understanding, we are missing an opportunity that is far greater than any weapon we could create. We are missing an opportunity to tie societies together to better each other.”

Pacific Angel "Mongolia"

A flock of sheep cross a road in northeastern Mongolia. Mongolia is the land of livestock with more than 30 million livestock, including 13.8 million sheep, 10.2 million goats, 3.1 million cattle, 2.6 million horses and 322,300 Bactrian camels. The livestock is permanently threatened by the fragile condition of pastureland, severe winters and endemic animal diseases. To cope in the short term, herders at the subsistence level may have to sell animals. With fewer animals they find it even harder to survive. Herders are among the poorest of the poor in Mongolia.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

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