South Gobi Cashmere Program


South Gobi, Mongolia


Product: Cashmere
Program Phase: Research
Program Partners: Oyu Tolgoi, Kering, Wildlife Conservation Society
Year Completed: 2020


Over the past 20 years, the number of goats in Mongolia has increased fourfold, driven predominantly by market demand as the fibre has become more accessible to a growing middle class. This increase in demand, coupled with unregulated pasture management has led to increasing desertification of the South Gobi region.

The South Gobi Cashmere (SGC) team is working to restore the degraded ecosystem and drive environmental, economic, and social sustainability in the cashmere sector.

​One cashmere goat yields approximately 300g of raw cashmere. At an average price of US$35 per kilogram, it is easy to calculate how many goats are required to earn a decent living for herders in Mongolia. Herders are constrained on how they can make a livelihood, with the majority relying on selling cashmere to access a great portion of their income.

​Work was required to understand the depth of the economic struggle of herders and what strategies could be put in place to reduce the cyclical nature of their income, reducing their exposure to risk.

​Without addressing these specific economic and social impacts, it was unlikely the herders would reduce the number of goats they owned, leading to further desertification of the South Gobi region.


Business for Development was asked to support the SGC team and develop economic and social strategies to improve herder livelihoods. The following activities were undertaken:

  • Desktop analysis of the SGC value chain and operating environment, including hypothesis development on how to improve economic opportunities and reduce the risk for herders.
  • Herder household economic survey and analysis, complementing insights drawn out through the desktop analysis.
  • In-country field workshops to validate the hypotheses formed by meeting key stakeholders, including herders, processors, and service providers.


Recommendations were provided on key strategies to improve goat herd management, increase the quality of cashmere, and ensure a solid foundation for the future development and long-term independence of SGC as a standalone legal entity protecting the herders’ interests. The following priority areas were identified as key enablers for the entire SGC program of work:

  • Targeted, multi-channel communications strategy to better inform herders of goat management practices to improve quality of cashmere.
  • Build the capacity of the co-operative to meet herder requirements and expand membership.
  • Utilise data and metrics to enable better economic and environmental decision making.

Design by HEARD Agency