Herders in Mongolia Get Fair Chance at Project Benefits

In the city of Choibalsan in eastern Mongolia, about 120 herder groups gathered in an auditorium to attend a lottery to be selected for Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) assistance. A week later, another 212 herder groups came together for lotteries in the central Mongolian cities of Kharkhorin and Arvaikheer.

For those chosen, MCC is leasing pastureland, supplying wells, and providing training on livestock management and rangeland productivity.

Although half the groups were not selected, there were no disputes over the fairness of the results. This was a tribute to the preparation and organization of the lottery approach that MSI associate Daniel Rubenson designed together with a team from Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA).  The approach consists of using random assignment to determine which groups would receive MCC support under an expansion of its program.

Their approach to randomization in the expansion area has been so successful that MCC has highlighted it as an example of first-class work. 

MSI’s work on the evaluation of MCC’s program for herders is being carried out through IPA under the Peri-Urban Rangeland Project, part of MCC’s Property Rights Project in Mongolia.

The lottery approach is a simple to understand technique that is proving to be highly successful in developing countries. The randomized controlled trial approach is considered the gold standard for studying causal processes and answering questions about project impacts.

Originally, the project was implemented in three areas around the cities of Darkhan, Erdenet, and Ulaanbaatar. Unfortunately, a randomized controlled trial design was not feasible in these areas. When MCC decided to expand the project into new areas, a second opportunity arose to apply a rigorous experimental design to determine program effects. Rubenson and the IPA field team developed this second design and are overseeing its implementation.

MCC’s project will potentially benefit 6000 people and increase household incomes by $15 million in the next 20 years. The project assists in improving productivity and incomes for the herders through better rangeland and herd management practices.


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