the VOA Special English Development Report.
northern Mongolia, the survival of the smallest ethnic group in the country
depends on reindeer.
American named Morgan Keay visited the Tsaatan community when she was studying
in Mongolia in two thousand two. Leaders told her that the animals were not healthy and the
number of reindeer was getting too small to support the community.
When she left, the chief gave her
his grandfather's smoking pipe. That way she would remember the Tsaatan and try
to help them. The Tsaatan have about five hundred members. About half are reindeer
herders up in the Taiga mountains. The other half live in a town.
Back in the United States, Morgan
Keay and a friend who had also studied in Mongolia started an organization.
They named it Itgel -- the Mongolian word for hope.
The Itgel Foundation has helped
bring foreign scientists to Mongolia to research and treat reindeer diseases.
Itgel also helped Tsaatan workers build a community and visitor center. The
building includes guest rooms for tourists.
The Tsaatan not only work as
guides, they now provide all services for travelers. The community works in
partnership with international tour operators. Those tour operators had
formerly been in control of the services.
People in the community designed
the center, which they also own and manage. Before the visitor center was
built, families earned an average of one hundred dollars a year. Now Morgan
Keay says the average is three to four times that. Money also goes into a
Four years ago the Tsaatan had
fewer than five hundred reindeer. Now Morgan Keay says the herd has just
reached nine hundred.
Last year, the Tsaatan learned
that the government of Mongolia planned to spend one and a half million dollars
on their community. But no one had talked to the Tsaatan about the plans. The
Itgel Foundation organized a meeting between community members and government
Morgan Keay says the Tsaatan are
becoming economically independent for the first time. The Mongolian government
is now considering a development plan written by the community. The plan deals
with education, health, the environment and economics.
And that's the VOA Special English Development Report,
written by Karen Leggett. For pictures, transcripts and MP3 archives of our
reports, go to voaspecialenglish.com.