GNF - Reforestation of Sea-buckthorn Trees in Mongolia

Reforestation on the Banks of Onggi River, Mongolia



The Onggi River and Lake Ulaan, which is fed by it, are the keys to the ecological balance of the Gobi desert in central Mongolia. Less water has been flowing through the Onggi River in the last few years causing the lake running dry. Increasing desertification of the region is the result. Causes of the lack of water in the Onggi River are the simultaneous occurrence of several negative impacts such as climate change, irresponsible mining and incorrect water management. The length of the river has shrunk from its original 470 kilometres to only 100 kilometres. This situation has led the Onggi River Movement to begin planting native plants along the banks of the Onggi River in 2004 already. 


Sea-Buckthorns are native plants well adapted to the rough climate. The strong, deep and extensive root system has positive effects on the water balance. The plants reduce ground erosion and desertification. Additionally, the vitamin rich Sea-Buckthorn berries are very valuable in Mongolia – also from an economic point of view.  The oil of the berries is used in the manufacture of cosmetics; the berries are made into juice, syrup or marmalade.

Project goal

The goal of the project is to reduce the desertification of the region and to promote the development of the region by harvesting and selling sea-buckthorn berries. Sea-Buckthorn bushes grow naturally in sandy soils up to 1,200 - 4,500 m in cold regions, but can also be cultivated at lower altitudes and in temperate zones.


During the project duration, Sea-Buckthorn and Osier Willow were planted along the Onggi River on an area totalling five hectares. Planting was carried out by local families. Mr. Tsetsegee Munkhbayar, the head of the NGO Onggi River Movement, was responsible for the project management. Ms Dr. Alimadariya from the Scientific Institute for Agriculture of the Province of Darkhan-Uul organised a seminar and instructed the project participants in the correct planting and care of Sea-buckthorn seedlings. Ms Oyungerel, an experienced gardener, responsible for planting at the Onggi River since 2004, provided advice to the new gardeners.

Project activities

The project area is located at the eastern bank at the beginning of the River Onggi near the city of Taragt in the province of Uvurkhangai. In total, an area of 5 hectares was planted. Two gardeners are responsible for one hectare land each and the trees planted in this area. For that reason, in 2011, the GNF partners assigned five families, who had lost all their cattle herds during the strong winter in 2009/2010.


Two workshops were organised to train the new gardeners in the protection and care of the seedlings. Technical support was provided by the NGO Onggi River Movement. In April 2011, the staff of the local GNF partner organisation UMMRL bought fences, mesh wire and nails to fence the newly planted areas. In the same month, the gardeners built fences to protect the young plants against game damage, and prepared the soil for planting the Sea-buckthorn seedlings. 


In May and June 2011, in total 5,500 biennial Sea-buckthorn seedlings and 300 biennial osier willows were planted in the project areas. Two newly built wells provide the seedlings with water - with the aid of pumps. 

In September 2011, some of the female gardeners participated in an organic food fair in the capital of Ulaanbaatar. They presented their home made products from the first harvest of sea buckthorn berries.


The project was coordinated by the GNF, in close cooperation with the Mongolian nature association United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes (UMMRL), responsible for the project implementation. UMMRL is a union of six civic movements and NGOs aiming at the protection of rivers and lakes within Mongolia. The NGO Onggi River Movement was jointly responsible for the implementation of the project activities.

 Project area with fences, protecting the seedlings.
 Irrigation of the planting area
 Gardeners preparing the holes for the seedlings.
 Gardener Mrs. Oyungerel
 Harvesting of the Sea-Buckthorm berries.


Up to now, 30 hectares Sea-buckthorn have been planted along the Onggi River. For the first time since 1998, water from the Onggi River has been running into Lake Ulaan for three months: This is a positive effect of the planting activities. Now, the partner organisations UMMRL and the Onggi River Movement intend to plant Sea-buckthorn bushes and other native plants along the whole length of the banks of the Onggi River (470 kilometres) to sustainably improve the ecological and the water balance in the region.


The gardeners and their families are responsible for the protection and care of the bushes over the next three years – as stipulated in the contract. If necessary, they have to repair the fences as well. They are allowed to keep the harvested berries, manufacture diverse products and offer them at the local markets. Interested inhabitants may visit the project areas and collect information.

For more detailed information on the Mongolian lakes and NGOs, please visit our website.


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Reforestation of Sea-buckthorn Trees on the Banks of Onggi River in Mongolia


May 2010 – December 2011




Deutsche Umwelthilfe and Rapunzel Naturkost through the Hand in Hand-Fund, Ursula Merz Foundation


NGO Onggi River Movement, United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes (UMMRL)