Mongolian Gers

By Beth Ritchey, KF10, Mongolia

Currently on there are almost 100 loans looking for funding for personal housing expenses.  The purchase of a home, and the subsequent improvements, is one of the largest household expenditure items in almost any country.  Because of the high costs associated with home improvements, many Kiva borrowers are successfully borrowing funds in a series of loans, making improvements over time.  For example Jesenia Del Socorro Urbina Jarquin in Nicaragua, is looking to fund her 3rd home improvement loan.

A typical Mongolian ger

Kiva borrowers have a wide variety of homes – in Central America the homes may have 4 mud walls, a roof and a dirt floor.  In Southeast Asia a home might be on stilts with a thatch roof and walls.  And in Mongolia you find homes called gers, a type of yurt.

About half of all Mongolians live in a ger, a one-room round felt tent traditionally used by nomads.  Gers consist of a wooden internal frame that is covered with a heavy felt blanket, making them easy to set up and take down.  The inside of gers are often decorated with woven wall hangings and the wooden frame is usually painted bright orange.  2 or 3 generations of family typically live in a ger together and life revolves around the central stove, which not only heats the ger but also serves as the kitchen.  Ger etiquette involves women staying to the right of the stove, with men to the left, and the head of the household always sitting at the northern end.  Visitors in a ger should always remember to not linger in the doorway and never to lean on the support frames.

Gers were created to suit the nomadic life and work wonderfully in the countryside, but unfortunately as life on the steppes has become more difficult for nomads, more of them are setting up their gers on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.  It is estimated now that 90% of Ulaanbaatar is made up of ger districts.  And there are a multitude of problems with the ger districts – one of the largest being the lack of any formal sanitation system.  Many ger district residents dig a pit toilet next to their ger, which contaminates the local water sources.  The World Bank and the IMF have both recognized the problems with the spread of the ger districts in Ulaanbaatar and are working on sanitation and water source solutions.

Ger district in Ulaanbaatar. Photo credit: Robin Edwards

Some good news is that both of Kiva’s Mongolia partners, Credit Mongol and XacBank, are helping to fund loans for Mongolians to move out of the ger districts and build more permanent homes.  XacBank in particular is tackling the housing problem by helping to finance the construction of low-cost apartments.

Beth Ritchey is currently serving as a member of the Kiva Fellows 10th class with Credit Mongol in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia  - make a loan in Mongolia today!

About the author

Beth Ritchey