|Apart from building Ger, we have been busy trying to do something in return to the Nation that gave us the Ger.
For every Ger that was made in our workshop, we have saved a 'copyright fee', to support an initiative for a better Mongolian future.
As it works out, we will spend it ourselves, in this thing we call Tengrii-Huuchet.
We are in the process of making small series of REALLY GOOD Ger, for export and sales, to wet climates.
We gave up trying to teach any specific Mongolian Ger-factory.
We support two local initiatives, Lotus Children Centre, and Togos-Khangai, because we recognise a shared striving for excellence.
|'Tengrii-Huuchet' is Mongolian, for what I believe "Children of the Sky".
I think it is an appropiate name for this project,
as there is still so much to learn, for us AND for them.
And actually ALL humans are children of the sky.
|Below is a piece of thought I wrote to create awareness in the current Ger-situation in Mongolia. If you, the reader of this website, think you can and want to help here, please contact me.
|From an outsiders point of view the yurt may seem fairly simple to re-produce, but my ten years experience in building and living in them tell me that the knowledge behind the original yurts and gers is vast, and very hard to get by. Even if so, the knowledge, materials and designs are not fit for the climate that we live in in Northern Europe. There was no competent book anywhere to be found, and actually a sizeable library would be needed to house all the knowledge involved, in all different yurts and ger, from all the regions where they are and were used.
The tents built in Mongolia in the last century were, by standardisation of sizes and execution, the best ever built, and economically as well as ecologically sound.
During the last ten years I have come to the conclusion that the knowledge of yurt, or Ger, the building of and the use of, is in great danger of disappearing, just in a time when flexible, ecological, quick housing is most needed, in rural areas as well as in disaster-relief. Museum specimens are too few, incomplete, and have no voice to explain why they are made as they are. The old building-expertise, that existed before and during communist times, is fading away with the masters, and a younger generation is not interested in, or cannot afford, quality.
In the light of changing climates all over the world, Mongolian grasslands are predicted to disappear in the next 40-50 years. With them will vanish all the herdsmen and their experience involved in yurts, the making and using of them.
A good example of this disaster can be seen in Inner-mongolia, and in Kalmukkia, (ex)-communist areas where yurts have to be imported from Mongolia-proper, to salvage what original folk-knowledge still exists.
Let the market be what it be, we have to collect and save the knowledge of all different types of lattice-wall and felt tent before it it lost for ever.
Of course this knowledge has to be used and tested continuously in all climatic situations, and therefore the building and use of yurt-like tents must be continued, even supported maybe, to feed and sustain those who make a living in this field, and to encourage them to teach others.
In the 'western' world (Europe, United States), there is a growing interest in the Ger as a housing-possibility, but the Quality of Ger exported from Mongolia today doesn't fit the demand.
The climatic difference is too great to adapt the imported Ger afterwards to the needs of the buyers. People who have bought imported Ger in the recent past, experience too much trouble with leaks, rot, and bad craftsmanship altogether, to ever order a new Ger again, or to advise anyone else to do so.
In absence of a better option we have been building Ger ourselves, adapted to our climate, in Holland, for about ten years now. We have gathered a lot of knowledge about the standards of quality, materials, and design, to make living in Ger in western Europe a real option. Mongolian Embassador ms. Onon, and before her Mr Chimmidorj, from the Brussels Embassy, visited our tents, as well as our production facilities, and may testify on the quality of our work.
We would like to see this quality also available as imported from Mongolia. It would be a good opportunity for some (young) people in Mongolia to exploit their cultural heritage, in a realistic, sensible economic undertaking. Exporting Ger from Mongolia seems to be an interesting business, but then the quality has to be exactly what the buyers in their countries need. We think it is possible to achieve this, but it will take a totally new way of thinking for those people who are involved in making these Ger, as well as some changes in the raw materials they use.
Buyers of Ger (in the West) are not used to fixing problems themselves, just like they don't fix their TV's, or cars. They prefer to pay a professional to do this, or spend more money in the initial purchase. This demands a very high standard of craftsmanship, and precise choice of materials.
For instance, in Mongolia the failure of one or a few parts of the Ger is no problem, because it is very easy to buy replacements in the common market. In the rest of the world this is not so easy, so the Gers used there should be perfect and be without any problems for at least five years.
Also important in the export-business is the reliability of delivery, in time, and in the quality of the products requested.
Guarantees and liabilities on the product is another issue that should be included when exporting.
In the current export-situation all of the above have given trouble at one or more instances.
At the same there is a young generation of Mongolians looking for an opportunity to survive economically in their own country, and to stick to their traditions at the same time, which seems a contradiction in today's world. They want to learn, and work hard, but find no financial opportunity in the traditional way of life. It seems to them the only way to survive is 'the American way'. Alas, the American way is not possible for everyone in Mongolia, today. Unemployment, and frustration results.
We think we can make both wishes meet, to mutual benefit:
We want to start a school/factory combination, specifically to teach and to build this Export-Quality Ger. The school/factory should teach young people the basics of Ger-construction, as well as teaching interested craftsmen what is needed for export.
The main goal is two-fold: to raise the quality of Ger, to meet the (profitable) demands of the international market, and to teach a new generation the craftsmanship (practical, financial, organisational), needed in the future to continue this project.
It could be related to an already existing factory, and/or technical school, or grow out of one of these, or it may be necessary to start all new.
From here and now, it is hard, if not impossible, to choose the right option.
However, the (extra) financial benefits from the export should be able to pay for (most of) the cost of teaching young people a profession.
An extra financial benefit may be found in teaching foreign (=western) students the high art of building Ger.
An interesting side-effect of this project may be to raise the consciousness of other local builders as to the quality of their work.
In this way Ger-exporting can be a catalyst in saving the traditional Ger-quality in Mongolia itself as well.
We trust that the export of Ger can be a steady and flourishing business, good for Mongolia today, and for the generations to come.
To realise this plan, we may need, (apart from our own efforts), some help from the Mongolian Government, from local organisations/ companies, as well as (probably) from some foreign national and international institutions (UNESCO, Soros foundation?).
From the Mongolian Government we need help in finding: Space, links with unemployment/youngsters/street-children organisations, and maybe some help with setting up Export-Quality restrictions, i.e. control on the Quality of Ger that leave Mongolia, and national publicity.
From local organisations/companies we will have to ask: The buying of materials, tools, electricity, heating, financial management, housing for some of the students/employees.
From foreign national institutions we will have to ask: Help in financing travel, legal assistance in importing Quality-Ger.
From international institutions we may need to ask: Start-up financing, teaching materials, tools/machinery, international publicity.
And if we can found such a teaching/working project for Ger, we can also think of other traditional crafts of Mongolia, like Temple-sculptures, Felt-making, bow-and-arrow-making, leather-work, silver and bronze-work. For all of these disciplines there is an international market to be found, if the quality is right. Maybe not all of them may create a huge profit in the export, but there are more reasons than just profit to guard against the loss of traditional crafts.
A great benefit in knowledge, efficiency and satisfaction may come from combining all these disciplines in one location.