The Prime Minister of Mongolia has said that the nomadic lifestyle many of its people have followed for centuries will have all but disappeared in 10-15 years.
A way of life that survived decades of communism is now under threat
In an interview with the BBC, the prime minister, Nambaryn Enkhbayar, said the situation was inevitable and he blamed the change on a competitive and fast developing world.
He said Mongolia's nomads had to adapt to modern realities if the country was to survive.
"We have to compete with our neighbours to develop, otherwise there will be no sort of guarantee that it will be an independent country. It will be a good culture and a great culture but it can disappear if we do not develop our capacity and skill to compete with others," he told the BBC World Service's East Asia Today programme.
It is estimated that around a third of Mongolia's 2.5m people depend on their animals for their livelihoods.
But the nomads of this rugged and sparsely populated country are gradually giving up their life in the countryside and heading for the city.
Thousands of nomads have already abandoned the Mongolian steppe after a series of climatic disasters.
This year, a country more used to droughts than floods suffered torrential rain and hailstorms that destroyed roads and bridges - killing a number of people.
Even in a normal year the Mongolian climate - known for its hot dry summers and long, cold winters - takes its toll on the nomads and their livestock.
Some in the country say the traditional way of life will be lucky to survive another generation.