6 Lessons On Community Support from The Mongolian Nomadic Herders

Nomadic herders- Mongolia

When I went to Mongolia, I was very impressed with the nomadic herders I met in the Gobi Desert. I learned a lot from them and how the nomadic herders in an area all work together as a support system for their small community.

The Mongolian nomadic herders in the Gobi Desert taught me six important lessons about our community support importance. I learned some important lessons about our working together as a group and supporting our neighbors while also building a support team that will always be there for us – especially in time of need. For this to happen, we must each be willing to serve in our communities and work together.

Camels in the Gobi Desert
Camels in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.

The Community of Mongolian Nomadic Herders

Mongolian Nomadic Herder’s Story

Mongolia is a landlocked country in East Asia that is sandwiched between Russia, China, and Kazakhstan. Mongolia has 1,564,116 square kilometers (603,909 square miles); it is also the 18th largest with landmass, but the most sparsely populated sovereign state globally, with about 3,000,000 people, and half of the population living in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. This population’s sparsity also allows the nomadic herders lots of land and wide-open spaces where their herds can roam.

Because of this, any place outside Ulaanbaatar is pretty remote, with small towns and limited services. I did not see any electricity in the countryside, as the Mongolian nomadic herders I stayed with used solar panels to give them some electricity.

When I went to the Gobi Desert, I stayed in a traditional Mongolian ger or yurt as they are known. I got up early in the morning and was sitting outside to take in the magnificent view of the desert and the other landscape.

The night before, we had met one of the nomadic herders’ neighbors as he came into the yurt to share the evening meal with the family we were staying with. They all seemed to be very close, and I discovered that the Mongolian nomadic herders would move with their herds about 4 times a year. Generally, they would move as a community with other nomadic herders and their families.

This community lived close to each other but not as close as some neighborhoods in many places in the world. The closest nomadic herder I saw was about a mile down the road.

So on this morning, as I was looking at the sunrise and looking out at the nature of the Gobi Desert and the two camels sitting outside, I began to see a lot of commotion taking place. Nomadic herders I had not seen before were coming by on their dirt bikes, and there was a kind of gathering of sorts going on.

The herders would come and then go off on their dirt bikes. Another would get on a camel and go riding off. When my English speaking guide finally got up that morning, I asked him what all the commotion was. Why was there a group of nomadic herders at our camp?

We both discovered that the nomadic herder family we were staying with had called his other herder friends and ask them to come to find his camels. He had over 50 camels out in the desert that he could not find. Unlike some other animals, Camels do not travel in one large pack, so the nomadic herders needed the help of their neighbors to find all their camels.

So his nomadic herder community had left their own herds to help our host find his camels. You see, the next day, he needed all 50 of his camels as he had a large group coming to ride the camels.

I also discovered that this kind of community support among the nomadic herders was not unusual. These Mongolian nomadic herders lived in a very harsh climate where the winters could be frigid and brutal. They depended on each other and their small nomadic communities for their very survival and the survival of their herds. They were in a community so that they could help each other and support one another.

I thought about this and my own life and how important it is for us to have a community or group that we can depend on. A group that helps us in our time of need. Someone that we can help when they need help or help us when we need help. But for this kind of support to work, it must have reciprocity in that every member of the group must be willing to do their part and help each other.

I feel there are things that we can all learn from these Mongolian nomadic herders and their willingness to search for the camels that were not even their camels. To help their neighboring herder in his time of need.

Here are some of the lessons we can all learn about community support:

Lesson 1 – Work Together As A Group

The Mongolian nomadic herders teach us that we can accomplish more if we work together as a group. I am not sure how my nomadic herding family would have been able to find all his camels independently. But as he had a group of other experienced herders he could call upon to help, he was able to find them quite quickly.

There is great power in all of us striving to work together as a group and help each other. By working together, we can help share the load, speak, and share the work. I love this quote by Mother Teresa:

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.“

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa is trying to teach us all that great things can happen if we try to do our part in our community. One person alone cannot change the world, but we can all be that small pebble that allows a ripple effect to happen. For great things to happen, we must all work together.

Lesson 2 – Support your neighbor

One of the great lessons with this is that these nomadic herders were willing to support their neighbor in his time of need. They came when they were asked, and I am sure they sacrificed time away from their own herds and their own things that they needed to do that day. But they knew that their neighbor needed them and their help.

Coretta Scott King eloquently said:

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

Coretta Scott King

A community is only as good as its members are in the community. If we stick to ourselves and refuse to help any of our neighbors, then our life will be lonely and one of disappointment and filled with loneliness. Though these nomadic herders were far out in the middle of nowhere, they also knew that they needed to support their neighbors.

Nomad's Dirt Bikes - Mongolia
The Mongolian Nomad’s dirt bike in the Gobi Desert.

Lesson 3 – Build a support group of like-minded individuals.

These herders were maybe not related to each other, but they all had similar goals and desires, so for them to form their community was easy. Mongolia has frigid winters, which are usually sub-zero temperatures. This can drop even colder in the nighttime. In these extreme winter weather conditions, a nomadic herder could freeze to death, or his herder will freeze and die. He needs his community to be there for his very survival, and his herds’ survival as most of the herds literally roam the countryside without any fences or barns.

The family we stayed with had lost over 30 horses during one very brutally cold winter. You can read our blog entitled 5 Lessons in Grit and Preserverence From Nomadic Herders in Mongolia, by clicking here. You can read about some lessons on resilience and grit from the Mongolian nomadic herders.

When your community cares about the same things, they also usually care about you – there is great power in that. Margeret J Wheatley said:

“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”

Margaret J. Wheatley

Lesson 4 – Sacrifice for another

The neighboring nomadic herders came out to find the camels for our host Mongolian nomadic family. But from what I saw, this kind of support, help, and sacrifice was normal for them. They told us that they support each other a lot as they depend on each other. As Herman Melville has said:

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men“

 Herman Melville

Those thousands of fibers connect us all when we realize that we need other people to live in this world. And many times, we need help from other people to survive and thrive in this world.

Lesson 5 – Collective brilliance, the power of being together

As I looked at these Mongolian nomadic herders, this is the thought that crossed my mind that we all need each other despite our differences. The Mongolian herders taught me there is great power in our being together.

There is great power when teams, organizations, or groups all work together to accomplish something great. I have a friend Christine Van Wagenen who has co-authored a book entitled Collective Brilliance: Spark Ideas, Build Faith and See Your Ministry in a Whole New Light., you can buy the book by clicking here. The book speaks of the power of a group collectively working together to accomplish great things. When we collectively get together as a group of individuals, we can accomplish so much more with the right team behind us.

I have thought of my Mongolian nomadic herders’ and how they understood this principle. They knew that together they could all work to try to find the camels. Working as a team, they could accomplish so much more than just individuals trying to do it on their own.

I love this African proverb that says:

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

African Proverb

Together with the right team, we can do so much more than if we are just one person trying it do it on our own. The right group of people can help us to:

  • Encourages our creativity and learning. We can learn a lot from others and their points of view. They may help us to see and understand things we would have otherwise.
  • Blends together our strengths. One in the team may have a strength of where you are weak and vice versa. So this can help to strengthen the entire group.
  • Builds trust. The more we work with that individual, the more we build trust with them.
  • Teaches us how to resolve any conflicts. Conflicts can happen with any group, team, or organization, but working in a group can quickly and easily resolve any conflicts.
  • Builds lasting relationships. A good team will help you to be able to build fruitful and lasting relationships.
Camel Riding - Mongolia
Nomad herder riding on a camel, in search of the lost camels in the Gobi Desert Mongolia.

Lesson 6 – Live to serve – serve to live.

These Nomadic herders were not afraid of doing service with others with their hard work. In fact, I saw the herders come in from their daily work about 8 pm after they have rounded up the last of their herd. And when I was up early in the morning, they were already up tending to their herds. I did not see them having a lot of time to rest or relax. They were not afraid to put on their work boots and work or serve another.

When we live our life thinking of how we can serve, great things can happen. We can forget ourselves and our problems. We can reach out to help another. When we have the attitude that we are not afraid of hard work, it gives our lives a new meaning and new purpose. I love this quote by George Bernard Shaw:

“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.”

George Bernard Shaw

We can all take this lesson from George Bernard Shaw and also the Mongolian nomadic herders and find a way to live our life so that we spent our days looking for ways to serve and help others along the way in our community.

Imagine how this world would be if every single people on the earth decided to spend just 30 minutes a day, every day, to serve and help just one person? Imagine then what a wonderful world we would be living in with all this service taking place. How about if we have an elderly neighbor, we go over to their yard and help them mow their grass or shovel the snow off their walk? Or we help someone carry their groceries to their car? Or we help someone who needs help to cross the street? Imagine how this world would be if we all decided to spend even just a few minutes a day serving and helping others.

The Mongolian nomadic herders and their willingness to help their neighbors in need to find their lost camels set an example for me in my life. It taught me some valuable lessons about our willingness to help and serve others, but also, more than that, the power to have a group in our lives that we can always count on to help us when we need help and that we, in turn, can also serve them when they need help.

Related Questions:

Where can I buy the book Collective Brilliance: Spark Ideas, Build Faith and See Your Ministry in a Whole New Light?

You can buy the book directly from the publisher at From the Rooftops Publishing by clicking here. The book is now also available in Spanish. If you have any questions, you can contact Christine Van Wagenen, and tell her Anita sent you, contact Christine by clicking here.

On their website, you can see when this group of amazing women will be speaking or holding a workshop. If you are in the area where they will be speaking, it will be worth your time to go to hear them speak.

Why do nomads migrate?

Nomads will migrate or move from place to place to find adequate food and water for their herds and animals. They need to move to new locations so they can find the best food, water, and climate for their animals.

The Mongolian nomadic herders we stayed with told us that they moved about 4 times a year. So they had a winter, spring, summer, and fall camp.

What percent of the Mongolian population is still nomadic herders?

There are about 3 million people in Mongolia. It is estimated that between 25% to 40% are nomadic herders. So this would be 600,000 to 1,200,000 people. That is quite a significant number of people who still live the nomadic lifestyle in Mongolia.

As with my nomadic herding family, I stayed with, many of the herders will bring in extra income by having ger’s or yurts that can be rented to tourists or offer camel or horse rides. This helps supplement and, in many ways, preserve the nomadic lifestyle.

What is the best way to explore Mongolia?

Visiting Mongolia is truly worth the visit. If you are interested in visiting there, please contact Adiyabold at New MIlestone Tours. He can help you with anything you need and help to answer any questions. Tell Adiyabold that Anita sent you. You can contact New Milestone Tours by clicking here.

Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

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