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The fruits of entrepreneurship in Mongolia

The sea buckthorn or 'charzargana' is found across Eurasia but thrives particularly well in Mongolia. (Olegivvit/Wikimedia Commons)The sea buckthorn or 'charzargana' is found across Eurasia but thrives particularly well in Mongolia. (Olegivvit/Wikimedia Commons) Processed chazargana sits out to dry in a local entrepreneur's factory. (UNV)Processed chazargana sits out to dry in a local entrepreneur's factory. (UNV) Natural salt mining is a traditional line of business in Mongolia that benefits from the expertise UNV volunteers can offer. (UNV)Natural salt mining is a traditional line of business in Mongolia that benefits from the expertise UNV volunteers can offer. (UNV)
22 August 2008

Ulaangom, Mongolia: A UNV volunteer has teamed up with Japanese partners to help Mongolians market some products with unusual benefits.

While working with local fruit processors, national UNV volunteer Ts Batsuuri found that the sea-buckthorn berry (a fruit indigenous to China and Mongolia and known locally as 'chazargana'), turned out to have some interesting properties. "I found there had been no proper study of the chazargana by any Mongolian research and food institutes," explains Mr. Ts. "So, after discussions with the community, we got hold of a study done by the Japanese National Food Institute to determine its nutritional benefits."

They found that chazargana has 103 nutritious elements – in other words, it contains nothing that isn't nutritious – making it arguably the second most nutritious fruit in the world.* Referring to the scientific research helped build the chazargana 'brand', allowing the entrepreneurs to promote their products better.

Chazargana oil was subsequently selected for the 'One Village, One Product' initiative, which aims to improve and expand eight products as national brands. It is part of UNDP's 'Enterprise Mongolia' project which brings 'microentrepreneurs' into contact with wider markets. 'Enterprise Mongolia' runs in partnership with the Mongolian Ministry of Industry and Trade and is assisted by the Government of Japan.

The UNV volunteer also helped businesses in Uvs Province get together with Japanese entrepreneurs and organizations. During 2007, delegates from the Uvs Provincial Government, researchers, and the director of UFC (a local company specializing in chazargana products) visited their Japanese counterparts from Hitachi city. These included cosmetics company Towa Kagaku and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO).

The Mongolians and the Japanese shared experience, technical know-how and lessons learned.  "As a result, a solid business partnership between them has been founded," says Mr. Ts.

On top of his involvement with the fruit business, Ts Batsuuri organized training for families working in natural salt mining. "Our livelihood depends on the income from our business," said a woman from one natural salt-mining household. "Batsuuri helped us to find clients. By attending training organised by Batsuuri, my husband learned some skills to improve the design of our products. As a result of having more clients and better design, our income has increased."

Like a third of UNV volunteers, Mr. Ts works in his own country. "The trust and confidence the community bestowed on him is based on strong competence and solid technical skills," remarked the UNV Programme Officer in Mongolia, Gilbert Anguyo. "The unique contribution he made demonstrates the added value of having a local person drawn from the community."

*The most nutritious fruit in the world is said to be the Açaí berry found in tropical Central and South America, though others argue for the Kiwi fruit.
UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)