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Cultivating change -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Cultivating change



Gansukh Munguntsetseg tends to her plants. Photo by Lkhamkhuu Davaasuren

Gansukh Munguntsetseg was drawn to Ulaanbaatar in the hope of a better life.

She moved to the city with her two daughters when she could not find work in her home district as a construction worker or bricklayer. Without land title or her own traditional Mongolian tent, Munguntsetseg rented an 8-square-meter ger. Water was drawn from a communal well, and several families shared an outdoor toilet.

Even in Ulaanbaatar, the country’s capital city, Munguntsetseg sometimes found work hard to come by, and so she began growing fruits and vegetables—cabbage and cauliflower, strawberries and sea-buckthorn.

During one winter, a time of year when the number of construction projects always dips with the plunging temperatures, she began collecting plastic bottles. By cutting off the top and the bottom of each bottle, she could spread the bottle into a flat sheet and sew the individual pieces together to make the walls of a greenhouse, which was set up with wooden frames.

With this simple structure, she could continue to grow fruits and vegetables even in the winter months. On average, Munguntsetseg can take home about 5,000 to 6,000 tugriks (US$3.50-$4.20) a day from selling her modest crops.

But Munguntsetseg’s ingenuity could not change her family’s living conditions—until she heard about Habitat Mongolia. In 2007, she contributed her own labor and expertise to the construction of her Habitat house. She has kept her greenhouse, now filled with nearly 20 plant varieties. The avid gardener is keen to try new crops, such as apples and mandarin oranges. And she’s keen to see a better future for her two daughters. “I would like them to work abroad and have their own homes,” she says. “It is my hope that I will have grandchildren and they will have a good life.”