05 April 2013

Hungry Planet - Mongolia

The Batsuuri family, living in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and their one week's worth of food (from the book Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio).

Their PICTURE is here.

This is a modernized family, transitioning more and more to western diet. Initially, the parents were living on squatter-land in a ger or yurt (traditional tent) and where the father had hand-built a house. After the communism (1990s), the mother opened a private pharmacy with borrowed money. As they did not understand the concept of compound interest, they lost all their belongings, including their tent and house. Now, although both parents have a job, they are constraint to rent one single room in an apartment, which they share with two other families.
"Regzen [father] now an electrician longs for their old homestead, but the children and Oyuna [mother] are happy to have an indoor bathroom and an electric stove, even if it means that they're all shoe-horned into the same small room. Best of all, the children say, they don't have to haul buckets of water home up a steep hill anymore."
They currently eat (9.5 kg of food per person, per week):

  • 45% starches (bread, potatoes, rice, etc.)
  • 11% sweet foods (sugar, pastries, milk treat)
  •   4% dairy (buteer, cheese)
  • 20% meat, fish, eggs (beef, mutton, canned fish, etc.)
  •   8% fruits (apples, tangerines)
  • 12% vegetables (cucumbers, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, etc.)

Beverages (1 litre per person per week):
  • 71% milk
  • 29% beer (no juices or soft drinks are consumed)

The traditional diet in Mongolia consisted mainly of meat and dairy products. The high amount of grain products and sugary treats are quite new to the diet, especially in these amounts. No wonder the rising trend in obesity and chronic diseases.

And here is How to Live in a Yurt if you want to try out the Mongolian lifestyle.

Facts about Mongolia (from the book):

  • Population density per square mile: 5
  • Population living in gers: 45%
  • Rank of Ulaanbaatar among the world's coldest capital cities: 1
  • Overweight populations: male 46, female 66%
  • Obese population: male 5%, female 25%
  • Population age 20 and older with diabetes: 3%

Here is the map of the city of Tsetserleg, Mongolia (from Google Maps). It is very interesting to see that around the center of the city, those little squares are homesteads, usually with a house and a ger. There is only one small road leading to this city. If you zoom in and out, you can see that there are no visible signs of agriculture in the whole country. Modern food is available almost exclusively in the capital city and only to the privileged classes. The "poorer" social classes still rely on herded animals as their main source of food. In fact, 80% of the country's land is used as land for grazing. If for some reason these people turn vegetarian, shipping them avocados and salads, using the existing infrastructure, would be quite challenging. Not to mention, it would probably be harder to withstand brutal winters on such diet.

If you have 10 minutes, you can watch this video taken in the city of Tsetserleg (the kids are very cute).

No comments:

Post a Comment