Guest Post: Christopher Carter on the Role of Bag Governors

This post features a new community character from Bag 4, Abu the bag governor. This summer alongside this community I experimented with a participatory planning tool that I hope to refine over the upcoming years at UBC.  Participating clans were given a GPS enabled point and shoot camera with a prompt to capture the things that they value about a nomadic lifestyle in addition to where and how they use surface water resources during their summer at high mountain pastures or Jailao. Abu’s family was one of the participating clans.

Responsible for organizing decision making at the bag level as interim governor, Abu lassoes mares for Kumis (fermented horse milk) production

In a qualitative sense we learned that a majority of participants worry little about the quality of unprotected point sources and seldom discuss water resource development at bag meetings. However they retain a strong sense of ownership about protecting the water quality and using water efficiently. In a quantitative sense we learned the exact location and number of bastao (springs) accessed by the community at pasture and are now able to now fashion maps that merge the location and illustration of community water use alongside climate and LANDSAT data. This can illustrate a changing human resource relationship with surface water and be used by the community leaders to represent themselves in the policy arena.

My personal hope at the ground level is that participants gained a critical sense of their water resource capital and the potential for participation in the development in an era of emerging mineral resource extraction, desertification and glacial recession.In this transcribed interview I sat down with Abu to discuss his role as interim governor and the photos he and his family took over three weeks.

What’s happening in this photo Abu? 

Here we see traditional Kazakh culture, traditions, habits, our relatives and our neighbors  Dairy products and fresh mares milk (Kumis) too. Only in the summer do Kazakh people milk horses and share tea once a year do we have this gathering. Also, this photo will be a memory of Cj and Emilie, our guests from Montana, and a memory of that day. I really like this photo.

Can you explain what you like about being the acting bag governor? 

I enjoy working as bag governor because I get to communicate with many people in bag 4 everyday and then there is the salary. 

How does nomadic bag 4 make decisions?

When I organize a bag meetings (4 times a year) we make decisions about the movement of this bag between pastures and the soum center and we ask the suggestions of the people. After hearing suggestions, we make a choice on the dates to move. We also vote then on decisions regarding foreign NGO projects as well as local development funding that is mostly used for livestock care.

What would you change about this organization of government?

I think the system is good because we are able to hear all of the people’s ideas and address the problems that way at a small scale.  

How many meetings do you hold a year? 

Usually four times a year, but if there is a special problem, we meet.

What are your hopes for the future of this Jailao? Concerns? 

A rock protected spring in the centre of nomadic bag 4.

I don’t exactly know the future of this Jailao because the weather changes very quickly and it is sometimes very difficult with animals. However there is less water in the bastao (springs) some summers and I am worried that in the future they may run dry.  If we fence around the bastao, or build a house to protect the source in all seasons, that that will protect it for future useThe families that are closest would have the responsibility to maintain it.

Christopher J. Carter is a Masters Candidate in Comparative Development Planning at the School of Regional and Urban Planning (SCARP) at the University of British Columbia. His 2013 participatory research on water development policy in Olgii Province is supported by a fellowship from BioRegions International. 

About Julian Dierkes

Julian Dierkes is a sociologist by training (PhD Princeton Univ) and a Mongolist by choice and passion since around 2005. He teaches in the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He toots and tweets @jdierkes
This entry was posted in Christopher Carter, Countryside, Kazakhs, Nomadism, Research on Mongolia, Water. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Guest Post: Christopher Carter on the Role of Bag Governors

  1. Jim Carter says:

    The image of you and Emilie sharing the kumis is priceless!
    -Jim Carter

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