Immigrant employability and Belgian social cohesion – learning in the Mongolian steppe

See new profile on DUO for a JOB, a social enterprise in Belgium, focused on increasing social cohesion and the employability of new immigrants in Belgium –

I didn’t go to Belgium to learn about this I must admit – Matthieu, one of my travel companions in Mongolia, is one of the co-founders! We had some very interesting conversations in the Mongolian Steppe.


Mongolian insights

I didnt meet with any environmental organisations in Ulaanbataar unfortunately. However, I was able to gain some insights from our tour, our tour guide and from a friend of a friend who has lived in UB the past year.


– the landscape is vast (I know I am stating the obvious but really, it is SO vast!)

– the country has 3 million people, 1-1.5 million of whom live in the capital. That’s a pretty low population density across the rest of the country!

– the nomadic culture still seems strong although it is declining as more and more people move to UB – the nomadic lifestyle is tough, just from the small, tourism-angled glimpse that I got, but moving to UB does not necessarily promise better – there is high unemployment, high pollution levels and other issues affecting city dwellers

– there are huge numbers of construction projects going up, to house all of the people moving to UB

– there is apparently a strong sense of oneness with nature amongst Mongolian people

– there is a lot of resistance to the large mining projects in the Gobi Desert, particularly the Rio Tinto mine to the south, which accounts for about 30-40% of Mongolia’s GDP. According to one person I met the Rio Tinto mine gets a lot of bad press but it does actually have stringent environmental standards which it does a good job at sticking to, and it has a far better record than many illegally operating mines in the country. Just depends who you speak to what story you get I guess…

– for so few people in the country, there seems to be a lot of rubbish scattered everywhere, which slightly contradicts the oneness and respect for nature. On the other hand, you can’t be much less impactful than by living the nomadic lifestyle so really the rubbish is probably the one harmful by-product they do have

– it was incredible to see the Przewalski (wild) horse – it really did look like they’d jumped out of cavemens’ paintings to be standing in front of us! It is gratifying to see the successful outcomes of a conservation reintroduction programme. After extinction in the wild in the 60s with just 42 left in various zoos, there are now over 320 horses in Hustai National Park and they are thriving!