ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia—Six years ago, nomadic farmer Ankhbayar Garamdagva followed the herd to this city on the fringe of the Gobi desert, hoping to share the riches promised to Mongolia by the global commodities boom.
The 29-year-old father of two sold off all his livestock and borrowed money from a local bank to set up a stall selling jeans at a market in the city’s south, sheltered only by sheets of plastic from temperatures that sometimes break below minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mr. Garamdagva travels with his wife once a month to a wholesale market in a town just over Mongolia’s southern border with China to stock up on jeans, which he then sells for $10 each back in Ulaanbaatar. But customers are scarce these days. The boom times in Ulaanbaatar have come and gone along with the rise and fall in commodities prices.
Now in his mid-30s, Mr. Garamdagva—along with many of his fellow countrymen—regrets what he left behind, and faces an uncertain future laden with debt.
“My sheep, goats, cows, horses…I sold everything, I can’t go back,” he says. “I moved here for a good life but, this year, we see no future.”
Few developing countries have seen their hopes dashed more by the slump in global commodity prices than Mongolia, this country of three million people that is almost four times the size of California.
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